Twins take top jobs in Polish politics after premier quits

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Poland is on course to have identical twin brothers occupying its two most powerful political posts, after tensions inside the ruling right-wing party exploded last night, prompting the resignation of the Prime Minister.

Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz quit unexpectedly, after less than a year as Polish premier, and the dominant Law and Justice Party said that he would be replaced by the party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. He is the twin brother of President Lech Kaczynski.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski promised last year that he would not be a candidate for the post of Prime Minister in order to help his twin's campaign to be elected President. That pledge was given amid fears that such a concentration of power in the hands of one family could undermine faith in Polish democracy.

The Kaczynskis also accepted that the public would find it confusing to be led by two men who are almost indistinguishable.

Last night all that went by the board as Mr Marcinkiewicz walked out of the government. Originally from a different, more moderate wing of the party, Mr Marcinkiewicz had won growing popularity in Poland and was taking an increasingly independent stance. In recent months he had been at odds with the Kaczynskis over appointments to various state posts.

Mr Marcinkiewicz's main ally in supporting pro-market policies, the former finance minister Zyta Gilowska, quit last month over allegations that she collaborated with the Communist-era secret police. She denied the claims.

The Kaczynskis have taken a particularly hard line against those thought to have had links with the Communist authorities. On economic policy they also championed a more active role for the state in job creation than Mr Marcinkiewicz.

Tensions reached breaking point after Mr Marcinkiewicz appointed an aide as his ally as Finance Minister and held a meeting with the opposition leader, Donald Tusk.

Last night a Law and Justice Party spokesman said: "The political council of Law and Justice has been informed of the resignation of Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and unanimously recommended Jaroslaw Kaczynski for new Prime Minister."

The statement did not offer any reasons for Mr Marcinkiewicz's resignation, and the outgoing Prime Minister had made no comment last night. But observers said that Mr Marcinkiewicz had paid the price for defying the Kaczynskis, who had expected him to toe their line.

The anticipated elevation of Jaroslaw Kaczynski marks the culmination of decades of campaigning by a remarkable political double-act. The brothers shot to stardom as child actors in a popular Polish movie of the 1960s. They later played a behind-the-scenes role in the Solidarity protests which eventually helped to topple the Communist regime.

Calling for a "moral revolution", the Law and Justice Party won both parliamentary and presidential elections last year, after campaigning for tax breaks and government aid for the poor, while stressing its commitment to the family and Christian values.

Fiercely anti-Communist, and deeply suspicious of both Germany and Russia, the Kaczynskis have often struck an abrasive note. Their hostility to gay rights has marked them out for particular criticism in liberal circles of Western Europe.