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Andrzej Lepper

Andrzej Zbigniew Lepper [ˈandʐɛj ˈzbʲigɲɛf ˈlɛppɛr] ( listen) (born 13 June 1954) is a Polish politician; the leader of Samoobrona RP (Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland) political party.

He was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development between 5 May 2006 and September 22, 2006, and again from 16 October 2006 to 9 July 2007, in the cabinet of Jarosław Kaczyński. Lepper's civil profession prior to entering politics was farming in the village of Zielnowo, Pomerania.

He has been charged with several criminal offences and been implicated in several scandals.

Contents

Early years and education

Lepper was born in Stowięcino, a tiny hamlet of roughly 200 people,[1] which has suffered greatly since Poland's transformation to a market-based economy because of its previous reliance on the socialist agricultural system.

Lepper is a farmer by trade. He did not complete his secondary education at the State Agricultural Technical School in Sypniewo and has no formal higher education. [1] During the period of economic transformation his farm fell into debt and he was on the verge of bankruptcy. He has a few titles of "doctor honoris causa" given by the University of Kiev, Ukraine.[1]

Lepper and his wife Irena have three children: Tomasz, Małgorzata and Renata.

Political career

From 1977 to 1980 he was a member of PZPR Polish United Workers' Party, Poland's communist party. In 1992 Lepper formed a new political party, an organisation of struggling farmers like himself, naming it "Samoobrona" (Self defence) (SO).[1] His first task was to displace and eliminate his rival Stanislaw Tyminski as a competitor. For this purpose, Lepper adopted much of Tyminski's political program as his own. Lepper organized anti-government demonstrations and other actions, most significantly against the Suchocka and Buzek governments, against what he saw as growing injustice, especially against farmers.

As party president he challenged Aleksander Kwaśniewski in the 1995 presidential election (1.3% votes). In the 2000, SO organized a campaign of blocking major roads[1] in order to bring media attention to the hard-pressed situation of Polish agriculture. Lepper won 3.05% votes in the 2000 presidential election. In the 2001 parliamentary election, Lepper's party managed to enter the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament (Sejm)[1] and formed an important fraction of it. Lepper was elected from Koszalin constituency.

Lepper's party received 11.4% of the vote and 56 seats in the September 2005 parliamentary election, making it the 3rd biggest party in the Sejm. Lepper stood in the October 2005 presidential election as his party's candidate and received 15% of the vote, the third highest result.

Lepper entered his party into a ruling coalition with the dominant PIS party in May 2006, taking on the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture. Subsequently, he accused his allies of spying on him and working to harm Samoobrona. Following several conflicts within the alliance, Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński asked his brother President Lech Kaczyński to sack Lepper from the Cabinet in September 2006. Kaczyński reinvited Lepper back to his cabinet several weeks later on 16 October 2006.

Political style and views

Samoobrona ("SO") and Lepper have successfully tapped into the disillusion felt by millions of poor citizens who have not benefited from Poland's entry into the European Union. Many SO voters live in small towns and villages with high unemployment rates, and therefore believe that they have lost out in the transition to the free market economy after 1989. However, Lepper is often criticized for not acknowledging the economic growth Poland has experienced since then.

Using strongly populist messages and committing acts of civil disobedience, he managed to gain nationwide publicity and a strong following in the countryside, where he is regarded as common man. He has also protested against the selling of Polish land to foreigners. Lepper and SO opposed Poland joining the European Union, but stopped short of running a fully fledged "no" campaign, on account of the popular predisposition of the Polish population towards EU membership.

Lepper's anti-EU stance was based in part on nationalism, but also on the presumed detrimental economic effect that accession would have on Polish agriculture. Lepper remains a Eurosceptic, but has toned down his position since. During his recent tenure as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Lepper worked hard for Polish agriculture within the European structures and on his departure was described by Union officials as "pragmatic" and "professional".

Andrzej Lepper is one of the few high-profile politicians that have consistently opposed Poland's involvement in American global military operations. He has been involved in promoting close relations with the country's eastern neighbours - Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Some of his many famous quotes are that "It is impossible to rape a prostitute" [1] or "I see myself as a positive dictator" [2]. Lepper himself appears to be a restless man, not easily placated and not inclined to settle down as an office holder, as his participation in Kaczyński's government shows.

With the votes of the left-wing majority in the Sejm, in 2001 he was elected as Vice-Speaker of Sejm (Wicemarszałek Sejmu), but after violating time constraints in debates he was dismissed.

Among Lepper and SO's undertakings in parliament were such incidents as the use of their own loudspeakers in the Sejm and claims that Robert Smoktunowicz of the liberal Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) engaged in the precious-stone trade doing business with the Afghan Taliban.

Criminal charges

Andrzej Lepper has been charged with criminal offenses, including assault, blocking roads and dumping grain on railroad tracks in the course of anti-government demonstrations (The New York Times, 2006).[3]

In May 2001 Lepper was sentenced to sixteen months in prison, which he is in the process of appealing (according to British Helsinki Human Rights Group).[4] In May 2006 Polish students protested against the coalition government and also mocked Lepper's recent criminal conviction for slander, chanting "Lepper to prison". [5]

As of 2007 Lepper faces criminal charges for slander and levelling corruption accusations against ministers and members of the parliament (Financial Times, 2002). [6]

Harassment scandal

In December 2006 a female party member claimed that Lepper and party deputy Stanisław Łyżwiński had demanded sexual favours in exchange for a job in a regional SO party office. After the publication of these claims in the Gazeta Wyborcza,[2] several other women came forward with similar accusations. Poland's chief prosecutor Janusz Kaczmarek later launched an investigation into the abuse allegations against both men.

Antisemitism scandal

The Interregional Academy of Personnel Management in Kiev, a private institution which actively promotes anti-Semitism [3] awarded Lepper with two honorary doctorates[4] and an honorary professorship. The Anti-Defamation League strongly condemned Lepper for accepting these titles.[5]

2007 political developments

On 9 July 2007, Prime Minister Kaczyński dismissed Lepper from the government, which Kaczyński said was due to suspicions that Lepper was involved in corruption. On 10 July, Lepper said that Samoobrona would withdraw from the ruling coalition, but later on the same day said that the party would remain in the coalition conditionally.[6] Lepper claimed to have been the victim of a politically motivated 'sting' operation, initiated by Prime Minister Kaczynski and PiS, and he demanded that a parliamentary inquiry be conducted to investigate the legality and motivation of the CBA operation mounted against him. This was one of the conditions put to PiS in return for SO remaining within the coalition.

On 16 July 2007, Lepper, together with Roman Giertych, chairman of another junior coalition partner League of Polish Families, announced a merger of their two parties, to be called League and Self-Defense (LiS). On August 5, the party quit the ruling coalition, leaving it without a majority.[7]

Early parliamentary elections for both houses of parliament (Sejm and Senat) were held on 21 October 2007, after the Sejm voted for its own dissolution on September 7. The party suffered a huge voter backlash, thereby failing to cross the 5% electoral threshold for elections to the Sejm. Consequently it lost all its seats.

Curiosities

  • Also, a fragment of Wolność Słowa (Freedom of Word) satiric song by musical group Püdelsi is about Andrzej Lepper - za nim Lepper jedzie, po nim lepiej będzie, siedzi na lawecie, liczy ecie-pecie, traktorami drogi grodzi, owce na manowce wodzi (Lepper is riding after him, it will be better after Lepper, he is sitting on a platform trailer and counts bagatelles, he hedges in roads by tractors and he leads sheeps astray).

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Araloff, Simon (2005-10-03). "Poland's Elections: Andrzej Zbigniew Lepper – Peasantry's Iron Fist". Axis Information and Analysis. http://www.axisglobe.com/article.asp?article=410. Retrieved 2007-02-23.  
  2. ^ Kącki, Marcin (2006-12-04). "Praca za seks w Samoobronie" (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. http://www.gazetawyborcza.pl/1,75248,3770674.html. Retrieved 2007-02-23.  
  3. ^ Professorship for Lepper Science and Scholarship in Poland Information Service. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
  4. ^ "Lepper odebrał w Moskwie doktorat honoris causa" (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. 2007-02-12. http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/swiat/1,34180,3913159.html. Retrieved 2007-02-23.  
  5. ^ ADL Condemns Polish Deputy PM for Accepting Honor from Anti-Semitic University. Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
  6. ^ Judy Dempsey, "Polish leader considers early elections", International Herald Tribune, July 10, 2007.
  7. ^ Dorota Bartyzel and Marta Waldoch, "Polish Self Defense Party Quits Coalition; Early Elections Loom", Bloomberg.com, August 5, 2007.

External links

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