Death of President Kaczynski Stuns the Nation
President Kaczynski, his wife, and dozens of high-ranking government officials were killed on April 10, 2010, when their plane crashed in the Katyn Woods in Smolensk, Russia. The group was headed to a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, in which more than 20,000 elite Polish troops were killed by members of the Soviet secret police during World War II. A total of 96 people perished in the crash, including Poland's deputy foreign minister, 12 members of Parliament, the chiefs of the army and the navy, and the president of the national bank. Despite the shocking and devastating turn of events, the officials who stepped in to ease the transition were praised for their composure and professionalism in the face of crisis. Bronislaw Komorowski, the leader of the lower house of Parliament, assumed the role as acting president.
The symbolism of the timing and site of the catastrophe cannot be ignored. The Katyn massacre remains a contentious issue between Poland and Russia. Just days earlier, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin became the first Russian leader to honor the Polish victims.
Kaczynski's twin brother and former prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, ran for president against Bronislaw Komorowski of the governing Civic Platform party. Komorowski took both the first and second rounds of the election and was sworn in as president in July.
Parliamentary elections in Oct. 2010 saw Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party win plurality over Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the Law and Justice party. The center-right Civic Platform took 39% of the vote, with 30% going to the conservative challenger, the Law and Justice Party. With the win, the Civic Platform became the first Polish party to win two consecutive terms since communism's fall in 1989.
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