Saturday, December 17, 2005

UN-Presidential: Kwasniewski Pardons Party Buddies

Poland's outgoing president Aleksander Kwasniewski has pardoned two party buddies, including a former deputy interior minister who leaked information of an impeding police raid to people close to local gangsters. Instead of 3 1/2 years in jail, he gets a one-year suspended sentence. The other pardoned official is Kwasniewski's former chief of staff.

This has caused quite a controversy in Poland, and rightly so. Pardoning cronies is an awful way to stain a legacy which did include overseeing Poland's entry into NATO and the European Union. One would think (and hope) that this may also complicate Kwasniewski's plans to be one of the candidates to replace Kofi Annan atop the UN next year.

Despite his communist past, Kwasniewski remained a popular politician, even as his party friends sunk under a wave of corruption scandals. When he was running for reelection five years ago, I remember visiting my grandmother, who had the pictures of Pope John Paul II and Kwasniewski on the top shelf in the living room. But then she saw one of Kwasniewski's aides poking fun at the pope and the president's picture ended up on a lower shelf. Well, Grandma, after this pardon mess, I think it's time to take the photo down completely.

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