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Are Polish political campaigns copycats?

Some of the campaign posters and ads in Poland are eerily similar to American versions.

One of the earliest examples dates back to 1993, when the free market Liberal Democratic Congress decked out pretty girls as tambourine-playing cheerleaders and had them march down Warsaw's main boulevard. Unfortunately, the wintry gray streets of the Polish capital, surrounded by brooding concrete apartment blocks, didn't capture the image of can-do American optimism the organizers were hoping to project. The party was wiped out in that year's elections.

That failure didn't have much of an impact on other political parties, which have frequently tried to jazz up their image by hosting colorful campaign rallies complete with dropping balloons and candidates giving speeches before a sign-waving audience. One of the most enthusiastic fans of this approach was the right-wing Law and Justice party, which governed from 2005 to 2007, thanks to the pro-American leanings of its two leading political strategists, Adam Bielan and Michal Kaminski. In Polish both are known by the Slavic term “spin-doktorzy”

In 2006, the party directly copied a political ad from Ronald Reagan. It showed a couple carrying a carpet for their new home, patrolling policemen and contented citizens — part of both the Polish and the American campaigns' efforts to show how much they had improved their countries.

Just a couple of months later, the center-right Civic Platform ran an exact copy of a Republican campaign ad, with the main difference being that instead of a frothing Howard Dean, the Polish ad featured an angry Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice. Civic Platform said that it made the ad after consulting with its U.S. counterparts.

In that case the campaign worked and Civic Platform won the election. But the differences between U.S. and Polish political cultures are now so large, especially in civic mobilization and the role money plays in politics (minor in Poland, enormous in the U.S.), that Poland would be better served by looking in Europe for a model to copy, perhaps to France's Nicolas Sarkozy, said Mistewicz.

Interested in reading more on politics in eastern Europe? In Ukraine, U.S. political consultants worked for presidential candidates.