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Andrzej Duda: heir apparent to Poland's conservative Kaczynski twins

25 may 2015, 13:41
0

 Andrzej Duda, the 43-year-old conservative MEP and lawyer who won Poland's cliffhanger presidential election on Sunday, has strong ties to the powerful Kaczynski twins, AFP reports.

The devout Catholic was close to the late president Lech Kaczynski, who died in a 2010 plane crash in Russia, and calls himself his "spiritual heir".

But Duda only became well-known after Lech's controversial twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski -- a former prime minister and current leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) conservative opposition party -- crowned him presidential candidate.

PiS is the main opposition party to the governing centrist Civic Platform (PO) associated with outgoing President Bronislaw Komorowski that has been in power since 2007, following a two-year PiS government.

Born in 1972 in the southern city of Krakow, Duda was a choir boy and Boy Scout in his early years before earning a law degree from the Jagiellonian University.

When PiS came into power in 2005, he was named deputy justice minister, a job he gave up in 2008 to become an aide to Lech. He was elected to the Polish parliament in 2011, then to the European Parliament last year.

Although he has never denied his ties to PiS and its leader, Duda made a point of emphasising his independence while on the campaign trail and promising that should he win he would quit the party in order to "serve the entire society".

   Social benefits galore 

 Duda has promised voters social benefits galore in fiery campaign speeches, including introducing extra tax exemptions for large families and lowering the retirement age, which the PO government had gradually pushed back to 67 years.

Some observers believe his pledges would be too much for the Polish economy to bear.

"His promises go well beyond the powers of the president and his generous economic proposals could even ruin the (much larger) German budget," said Radoslaw Markowski, a political scientist at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Duda also wants to strengthen ties with the NATO western defence alliance by permanently stationing its troops on Polish soil amid security concerns over Russia's activity in neighbouring Ukraine.

"The best course of action for Poland would be to have US troops stationed on its territory. It's the only way to guarantee the country's security," he said.

Duda says he opposes Poland's entry into the eurozone "so long as the standard of living of Poles remains below that of Germans or the Dutch."

Like Poland's powerful Catholic Church, he also opposes in-vitro fertilisation and came down hard on the 2011 Istanbul Convention, the world's first binding legal instrument to prevent and combat violence against women, which Poland ratified last month.

Duda crisscrossed the country wooing voters and won the support of both the right-leaning Solidarity trade union and the leftwing OPZZ trade union.

He is in favour of amending the constitution to make referendum proposals backed by at least one million signatures automatically go ahead. The parliament can currently veto proposals, and does.

An avid skier, Duda is married to teacher Agata and has one daughter. His


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