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Poland - 2010 Elections

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, and several top government officials were killed 10 April 2010 when a plane carrying 96 people crashed in thick fog on its approach to Smolensk airport in western Russia. The dead included two of the men who were expected to run in the October 2010 Presidential election -- Jerzy Szmajdzinski, of the leftist opposition, and Kaczynski, who was supposed to be the candidate of the Law and Justice party. The death of Kaczynski was a blow for the Law and Justice party, which had flagged in opinion polls far behind Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform. Some commentators speculated that the outpouring of sympathy could give a boost to Law and Justice, headed by Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw.

A number of false or unsubstantiated stories circulated around the Internet. Antoni Macierewicz, a former member of Polands anti-communist opposition movement notorious for controversial statements. told the European parliament in March 2015 that Russia was to blame for the plane crash. A leaked transcript of cockpit conversations in the Polish presidents plane meanwhile confirmed that members of Kaczynskis entourage had pressured the pilots to land despite thick fog.

The airport at Smolensk did not have an Instrument Landing System (ILS). Circumstances contributing to the accident were the failure to monitor altitude by means of a pressure altimeter during a non-precision approach. The radar altimeter in Tu-154M doesn't have a digital display but just analog gauge, so in case of a sudden change of the terrain profile there is a slight delay of the readout until the needle catches up. The plane flew over a deep ravine before reaching the runway on a plateau. Radar altimeters also don't work reliably over cities and really rugged terrain.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his allies suggested possible foul play by Russia and accused European Council President Donald Tusk who was the Polish prime minister at the time of the crash of negligence connected to the disaster. Members of the new [2015] government believed that Tusk, who was prime minister from 2007-2014, didn't put enough emphasis on the security for President Lech Kaczynski. They also blamed him for not insisting on an international investigation into the April 2010 crash.

Lech Kaczynski beat Tusk in a 2005 presidential race marked by bitter mudslinging. He had been expected to seek a second five-year term in an election later in 2010, but trailed Komorowski in opinion polls. Instead, Jaroslaw Kaczynski sought to step into his twin's shoes but struggled to shake off his divisive, confrontational reputation and failed to build on the outpouring of public sympathy over April's catastrophic plane crash.

Poland's caretaker president, Bronislaw Komorowski, won 52.63 percent of the vote in the 04 July 2010 poll compared with 47.37 percent for his rival, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The runoff was held after neither candidate obtained more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round held 26 June 2010. Komorowski pledged to unite the country's fractured political landscape after winning the presidential runoff triggered by the death of his predecessor.

Since Bronislaw Komorowski was elected as head of state in the summer of 2010 taking over as president from the late Lech Kaczynski who died in the Smolensk air disaster - Jaroslaw Kaczynski's relations with the Presidential Palace had been strained.

Komorowski's governing Civic Platform party had been at loggerheads with the Euroskeptic Law and Justice party, run by the Kaczynskis. Lech Kaczynski used his presidential veto 18 times to block legislation introduced by the liberal Civic Platform government led by Komorowski's close ally, Prime Minister Donald Tusk.



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