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Poland

Yearbook 2011

Poland. The 2010 Russian Federation air disaster, including the death of President Lech Kaczyński, continued to cast its shadow over Poland. According to Countryaah official site, the Russian accident investigation's final report came in January, and it blamed the Polish pilots for the accident. The reaction in Poland was fierce, as many considered that the Russian Federation was at fault in the accident, when a total of 96 people were killed, among them a number of leading people in Polish society.

2011 Poland

But the Russian conclusions were partially confirmed by the Polish accident report which came in July. The pilots' mistakes were said to be the main cause, while the actions of the Russian air traffic controllers were rejected as well as the lighting at the airport in Smolensk. The Polish Defense Minister resigned as a result of the Polish report. A number of senior military officers and officials were also allowed to leave their posts.

The dead president's twin brother, former Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, accused the Russian federation of the accident, saying that the Polish government bowed to Moscow, which the government rejected. Jarosław Kaczyński boycotted the official memorial ceremony one year after the accident.

At the turn of the year, Poland became the EU country for the first time. Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his government were keen to give a new and EU-positive image of Poland, in contrast to the EU-critical policy that the former Polish leadership under the Kaczyński brothers.

In August, the disputed politician and former minister Andrzej Lepper committed suicide. The EU-critical Lepper had been leader of the populist and nationalist self-defense party.

Large demonstrations were held during the year with demands for higher wages and in protest of the reduction in unemployment support. But even though unemployment was 12%, Poland was the only country in the EU to have survived the 2008-10 financial crisis without recession. For 2011, GDP growth was forecast at 4%, higher than in the largest EU economies. The economic situation helped Prime Minister Tusk and his center-right Party Citizen Platform (PO) win the parliamentary elections in October. It was the first time a government was re-elected after the fall of communism in Poland.

The PO did lose some votes and a few seats, but the coalition's scarce victory was enough for continued government ownership. The PO got just over 39% of the vote and the rural-oriented coalition party the Polish People's Party (PSL) 8.4%. It gave the government a majority in parliament with 238 out of 460 seats. Jarosław Kaczyński's Conservative opposition party Law and Justice (PiS), which also declined, received just under 30% of the vote. Most lost was the Social Democratic Left Alliance SLD, which had to settle for just over 8%. The only party that emerged was the newly formed Liberal and Anti-Church Palico Movement (RP), which unexpectedly took 10% and 40 seats in its first election. RP, which says yes to abortion and same-sex marriage, was supported mainly by young voters in the cities and became the third largest party. The leader is former vodka magnate Janusz Palikot.

Despite GDP growth, Tusk's new government proposed controversial austerity measures, including raising the retirement age and withdrawing certain tax and pension benefits. According to Tusk, Poland must prevent the country from suffering the consequences of the ongoing euro crisis. The Government's goal is to reduce the budget deficit to 1% in 2015.

During the autumn, the Palico movement demanded that a crucifix in Parliament's lower house, the Sejm, be removed. According to Palikot, it is contrary to Poland's secular constitution if the state is not neutral on religious issues. The Conservative Party Law and Justice protested and described the conflict as a cultural struggle, not only about religion but also about patriotism and national pride. The Catholic Church's strong influence in society is linked to the opposition to the former communist dictatorship.

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