For a brief period after the Smolensk plane crash last year, decency reigned in Polish politics. But that was not a tenable situation. Soon the conspiracy theories started to circulate over who was responsible for and who stood to gain from the death of President Lech Kaczynski.

Now it’s the turn of Andrzej Lepper, the conservative, nationalist politician who was found hanged in Warsaw Friday.

Police are investigating his death, although the prosecutor has said his body did not appear to have any injuries beside those resulting from hanging. The prosecutor also said Lepper had financial difficulties.

He was also facing a retrial in a sex-for-employment scandal. He was convicted last year of forcing a woman to have sex with him in exchange for a job with his Samoobrona (Self-Defense) party but was granted a retrial on appeal.

Further, Lepper’s son was seriously ill.

All that aside, some who had stayed close to Lepper through his declining political fortunes and his last, litigation-plagued years say they don’t believe he committed suicide. Some point out that he was a devout Catholic, but the most specific objection comes from the editor of the conservative Polish Gazeta newspaper, who said Lepper had told him that he feared for his life. That fear, according to the journalist, was connected to Lepper’s testifying as a defense witness in a lawsuit brought by former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski against former Deputy Prime Minister Roman Giertych, who had said that Kaczynski had collected compromising information on opposition politicians and their families.

In a bizarre little sideshow, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has urged Warsaw to conduct an impartial investigation, with international help. Lepper had cordial relations with Lukashenka and had recently announced plans to start a business importing goods from the east, including Belarus, according to newsweek.pl. Lukashenka cited the timing of the death, two months before parliamentary elections, as especially suspicious, but that implies that Lepper would have been a factor in that poll. There’s no nice way to say this, but given the waning of his influence, reality suggests otherwise.

But reality is no impediment when your real motive is to needle a neighboring government that has lent a hand to pro-democracy activists from your own country whom you would like to toss down a well.

Photos from the website of Samoobrona.

Barbara Frye

Barbara Frye is Transitions Online’s managing editor. Email: barbara.frye@tol.org

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