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Lech Kaczynski's death boosts his brother's fortunes

Jaroslaw Kaczynski's approval ratings soar as Poland's snap presidential election approaches.

In his statement last week declaring his candidacy, Kaczynski said: “The tragically ended life of the President of the Republic, the deaths of the elite of patriotic Poland, means one thing for us: We have to continue their mission.”

What was striking was that Kaczynski did not make a public appearance on the day he declared his candidacy, leaving the task of giving interviews to his campaign manager, the affable Joanna Kluzik-Rostowska. Kaczynski has been obviously deeply shaken by the loss of his brother and many of his closest political allies, but a better reason to keep him in the background is his ability to rapidly inflame public opinion.

He already did that in his statement where he called on support from “true Poles and true Poland,” which analysts worried was a return to his divisive language of the past, where he has tended to segregate his supporters as true Poles, and lump his political opponents with enemies of the state.

Kaczynski might get some help from Polish public television, which is under the control of an exotic coalition of two opposition parties, Law and Justice and the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance. The station broadcast a program from the week of public mourning outside the presidential palace in central Warsaw during which almost everyone interviewed angrily denounced the media and the government for not showing enough respect toward the late president.

For now the shift in public opinion toward Jaroslaw Kaczynski has not made him a favorite in the election campaign. Bronislaw Komorowski, the speaker of parliament and acting president, as well as presidential candidate for the ruling Civic Platform party, is in the lead in all opinion polls.

But the very rapid improvement in Kaczynski’s political fortunes may not be over yet.