Trip tips: A walking tour of Warsaw holds clues to Polish election

Fri Oct 23, 2015 9:01am EDT
 
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By Justyna Pawlak

WARSAW (Reuters) - Warsaw is maybe best known architecturally for its triumphalist Stalin-era Palace of Culture, the drabness of its communist housing and the baroque charm of its 'old town', rebuilt brick by laborious brick after its total destruction in World War Two.

But for politics wonks following Poland's Oct. 25 election a stroll through the city also offers an intriguing glimpse into the Polish psyche and helps explain why Sunday's vote may bring an end to nearly a decade of political and economic stability and push the country away from the European mainstream.

Opinion polls show the pro-business, centrist Civic Platform (PO), in power since 2007, ceding power to the socially conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which favors left-leaning economics, a eurosceptic foreign policy and nationalist rhetoric.

PIOUS NATIONALISM

A tour of Warsaw on the 10th day of any month is especially instructive for students of Polish politics. On this day hundreds of Poles gather near the neo-classical presidential palace on the edge of the 'Old Town' to commemorate the death of president Lech Kaczynski and nearly 100 others in a plane crash in Russia on April 10, 2010.

The crash was a tragedy that shook Poland to the core - the dead included top army brass, the central bank governor and many senior lawmakers from across the political spectrum.

But to many of the mourners, who carry candles and pray, it was more than that.   Continued...

 
Candles and flowers are laid in front of the Presidential Palace during a ceremony, to mark the fifth anniversary of the crash of the Polish government plane in Smolensk, Russia, that killed 96 people on board including the late President Kaczynski and his wife Maria, in Warsaw, Poland April 10, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel