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Kaczyński, Lech Aleksander

Date of birth : 1949-06-18
Date of death : 2010-04-10
Birthplace : Żoliborz, Warsaw
Nationality : Polish
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-04-11

Lech Aleksander Kaczyński (18 June 1949 – 10 April 2010) was the President of the Republic of Poland from 2005 to 2010, a politician of the party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice, PiS). Kaczyński served as Mayor of Warsaw from 2002 until 22 December 2005, the day before his presidential inauguration. He was the identical twin brother of the former Prime Minister of Poland and current Chairman of the Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczyński.

Kaczyński was born in Żoliborz, Warsaw, the son of Rajmund (an engineer who served as a soldier of the Armia Krajowa in World War II and a veteran of the Warsaw Uprising) and Jadwiga (a philologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences). As a child, he starred in a 1962 Polish film, The Two Who Stole the Moon (Polish title O dwóch takich, co ukradli księżyc) with his twin brother Jarosław.

Lech Kaczyński was a graduate of law and administration of Warsaw University. In 1980 he was awarded his PhD by Gdańsk University. In 1990 he had his habilitation in labour and employment law. He later assumed professorial positions at Gdańsk University and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.

In the 1970s Lech Kaczyński was an activist in the pro-democratic anti-Communist movement in Poland, Workers' Defence Committee, as well as the Independent Trade Union movement. In August 1980, he became an adviser to the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee in the Gdańsk Shipyard and the Solidarity movement. During the martial law introduced by the communists in December, 1981, he was interned as an anti-socialist element. After his release from internment, he returned to trade union activities, becoming a member of the underground Solidarity.

Kaczyński was elected a senator in the elections of June 1989, and became the vice-chairman of Solidarity trade union NSZZ Solidarność. In the 1991 parliamentary election, he was elected to the parliament as a non-party member. He was, however, supported by the electoral committee Center Civic Alliance, closely related but not identical to the political party Porozumienie Centrum (Center Agreement) led by his brother. He was also the main adviser and supporter of Lech Wałęsa when the latter was elected President of Poland in December 1990. Wałęsa nominated Kaczyński to be the Security Minister in the Presidential Chancellery but fired him in 1992 due to a conflict concerning Jan Olszewski's government.

Lech Kaczyński was the President of the Supreme Chamber of Control (Najwyższa Izba Kontroli, NIK) from February 1992 to May 1995 and later Minister of Justice and Attorney General in Jerzy Buzek's government from June 2000 until his dismissal in July 2001. During this time he was very popular because of his strong stance against corruption.

In 2001 he founded the conservative political party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość – PiS) party with his brother Jarosław. Lech Kaczyński was the president of the party between 2001 and 2003. His brother Jaroslaw is its current chairman.

Polish presidential election, 2005

On 19 March 2005, he formally declared his intention to run for president in the October 2005 election. Elected President of the Republic of Poland in defeating the runner up Donald Tusk, by polling 54.04 percent of the vote, Kaczyński assumed office on 23 December 2005 by taking an oath before the National Assembly.

In his first public speech as president-elect, Kaczyński said his presidency would have the fundamental task of the amelioration of the Republic.... Saying that.... This will consist of... "purging various pathologies from our life, most prominently including crime (...), particularly criminal corruption – that entire, great rush to obtain unjust enrichment, a rush that is poisoning society, [and preventing the state from ensuring] elementary social security, health security, basic conditions for the development of the family [and] the security of commerce and the basic conditions for economic development."

During his inauguration he stated several goals he would pursue during his presidency. Among those concerning internal affairs were: increasing social solidarity in Poland, bringing justice to those who were responsible or affected by communist crimes in the People's Republic of Poland, fighting corruption, providing security in economy, and safety for development of family. Kaczyński also stated that he would seek to abolish differences between regions. In his speech he also put emphasis on combining modernisation with tradition and remembering the teachings of Pope John Paul II.

On December 21, 2008, Lech Kaczyński became the first Polish head of state to visit a Polish synagogue for a religious service. His attendance coincided with the first night of Hanukkah.

In foreign affairs, President Kaczyński noted that many of Poland's problems were related to the lack of energy security and this issue would have to be resolved in order to protect Polish interests. Strengthening ties with the USA while continuing to develop relations within the European Union are two main goals of Polish foreign affairs, as well as improving relations with France and Germany despite several problems in relations with the latter. Outside those issues, the main tasks include developing a visible strategic partnership with Ukraine and greater cooperation with the Baltic states and Georgia. He was greatly appreciated in Israel, Israel was pushing youth being educated about the Holocaust which out of the 6 Million Jews, 3 million of them were from Poland, Israel grieved over his death.

Defense Minister Radosław Sikorski compared the planned Russia to Germany gas pipeline to the infamous Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and Foreign minister Anna Fotyga stated that the pipeline was a threat to Poland's energy security.

In November 2006 in Helsinki, at a European Union—Russia meeting, Poland vetoed the launch of EU-Russia partnership talks due to a Russian ban on Polish meat and plant products imports.

As a reaction to claims by a German exile group Preussische Treuhand, which represents post-1945 German expellees from Eastern Europe, the Polish Foreign Minister Fotyga (a protégé of Kaczyński) mistakenly threatened to reopen a 1990 Treaty fixing the Oder and Neisse rivers as the border between the two countries instead of the Neighborhood Treaty signed in the same year.

In 2008, following the military conflict between Russia and Georgia, Lech Kaczyński provided the website of the President of Poland for dissemination of information for blocked by the Russian Federation Georgian internet portals.

During the state visit to Serbia in 2009, Kaczyński said that the Polish government, on the basis of its constitutional competences, decided to recognize Kosovo and emphasized that he, as the President of the state, did not agree with that.

Death

On 10 April 2010 a Tupolev Tu-154 plane carrying President Kaczyński, his wife Maria Kaczyńska and other members of a Polish delegation were travelling from Warsaw to commemorate the Katyn massacre and crashed while approaching Smolensk Air Base in Russia at 08:56 Eastern European Time (06:56 GMT). The plane hit trees in foggy conditions about 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mi) from the airport. The governor of Smolensk Oblast confirmed for Russia 24 news channel that there were no survivors of the crash.

He was married to economist Maria Kaczyńska from 1978 until their deaths. They had one daughter, Marta (born 1980), who graduated from the Department of Law at Gdańsk University.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev immediately ordered a government commission to investigate the crash. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was placed in charge of the investigation.

96 people were killed in the crash, including many of Poland's highest military and civilian leaders.


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