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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Polish twins in leadership race
By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw

Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks in front of poster of his twin brother Lech Kaczynski
Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks in front of poster of his twin brother Lech
Some say all politicians are alike.

One of the more peculiar aspects of the upcoming Polish elections is the fact that identical twin brothers are running for president and prime minister.

Some voters cannot even tell them apart.

"They are very similar so sometimes I can't tell who is who, so maybe it's a problem for me," said Rafal, who works in a law office.

Back in 1962, Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski charmed the nation as child actors in the film "The Two That Stole the Moon". But now they prefer to play separate roles.

Even though they were in their party headquarters at the same time I could not get them to be interviewed together.

"It simply doesn't work for us. People make fun of twins and politics and running the country is not something to make fun of," Jaroslaw said.

"It's my brother who doesn't like it. The fact we're twins makes us more well-known and that's in Poland's interests," Lech said.

Tough line

As head of the centre-right Law and Justice Party, which topped the latest opinion poll, Jaroslaw is in line to become prime minister in Sunday's parliamentary elections. Lech, the younger by 45 minutes, is running for president in elections two weeks later.

If my brother becomes president I will not become prime minister even if my party wins the elections
Jaroslaw Kaczynski

At the moment, Lech is running second in the presidential election polls. But there is another reason why Poland may not be governed by the 56-year-old twins.

"There's nothing to prevent it in the Constitution. Maybe people think it's strange, but please be calm. If my brother becomes president I will not become prime minister even if my party wins the elections," Jaroslaw said.

The angelic faces are long gone. Now the brothers talk tough in the fight against crime and corruption. They say economic growth has not been enough to prevent high unemployment - at close to 18% it is the highest in the European Union - and increased poverty.

The twins are also appealing to traditional values such as those of the Catholic Church and the family. As the current mayor of Warsaw, Lech banned a gay rights rally in the city two years running.

Jaroslaw says the country needs a "moral revolution". In the year of the 25th anniversary of the birth of the Solidarity trade union, they say Poland needs to renew the spirit of that ground-breaking freedom movement.

Spanish-Irish model

What is not clear at this stage is whether the voters want such a radical change. Certainly the current left-wing government looks to be on the way out.

Many voters say they are fed up with the lack of jobs, countless corruption scandals and a health care service on the brink of bankruptcy.

Poor living conditions have angered former Solidarity supporters
But vying neck and neck in the polls is the liberal Civic Platform party. Like the twins' Law and Justice, it also has its roots in the Solidarity movement.

Its economic policy is guided by the free market and it is promising stronger growth through privatisation, spending cuts and a flat tax of 15%. Its candidate for prime minister, Jan Rokita wants to turn Poland into the region's economic leader.

"Generally there are two ways to fight unemployment. The first is the German-French model of gathering more taxes to fuel job creation. That is short-sighted and it failed in Germany. And then there is the Spanish-Irish model which worked. The Spanish cut taxes by a half and this maximised competition and created new jobs," he said.

Despite their differences, especially over how much the market dictates economic policy, both centre-right parties have said they will form a coalition government if neither wins a clear majority.

What is not clear yet is which party will win the most votes in Sunday's elections and whether the twins will be performing lead or supporting roles in the new government.

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