Andrzej Lepper

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Andrzej Lepper
Andrzej Lepper.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of Poland
In office
5 May 2006 – 22 September 2006
Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz
Jarosław Kaczyński
Preceded by Zyta Gilowska
Succeeded by Ludwik Dorn
In office
16 October 2006 – 9 July 2007
Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński
Preceded by Ludwik Dorn
Succeeded by Przemysław Gosiewski
Minister of Agriculture
In office
5 May 2006 – 9 July 2007
Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz
Jarosław Kaczyński
Preceded by Krzysztof Jurgiel
Succeeded by Wojciech Mojzesowicz
Deputy Marshal of the Sejm
In office
19 October 2001 – 5 May 2006
Preceded by Marek Borowski
Succeeded by Genowefa Wiśniowska
Personal details
Born Andrzej Zbigniew Lepper
(1954-06-13)June 13, 1954
Stowięcino, Poland
Died August 5, 2011(2011-08-05) (aged 57)
Warsaw, Poland
Nationality Polish
Political party Samoobrona RP
Profession Politician

Andrzej Zbigniew Lepper [ˈandʐɛj ˈzbʲiɡɲɛf ˈlɛppɛr] ( ) (13 June 1954 – 5 August 2011) was a Polish politician who was 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 22 September 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 was a candidate in the Polish presidential election in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010.

Early years and education[edit]

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.

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 received several "doctor honoris causa" titles from the University of Kiev (Ukraine).[1]

Family[edit]

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

Political career[edit]

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 re-invited Lepper back to his cabinet several weeks later on 16 October 2006.

Political style and views[edit]

Samoobrona ("SO") and Lepper 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 was often criticized for not acknowledging the economic growth Poland has experienced since then.[citation needed]

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 was regarded as a common man. He 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 remained a Eurosceptic, but later 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 was one of the few high-profile politicians that consistently opposed Poland's involvement in American global military operations. He was 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"[2] or "I see myself as a positive dictator".[3] Lepper himself appeared 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 showed.[citation needed]

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[edit]

Andrzej Lepper in 2007

Andrzej Lepper was 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).[4]

In May 2001 Lepper was sentenced to sixteen months in prison.[citation needed] 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 faced criminal charges for slander and levelling corruption accusations against ministers and members of the parliament (Financial Times, 2002).[6]

Harassment scandal[edit]

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,[7] 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. In February 2010 Andrzej Lepper was sentenced to two years and three months in jail after being found guilty of demanding and accepting sexual favours from female members of his SO party. The district court in central Poland also sentenced former SO party deputy Stanislaw Lyzwinski to five years for rape and taking sexual advantage of female members of his party. Lepper said that the entire case against him was "imagined", and that he would appeal the decision.[8]

Antisemitism scandal[edit]

The Interregional Academy of Personnel Management in Kiev, a private institution which actively promotes anti-Semitism [9] awarded Lepper with two honorary doctorates[10] and an honorary professorship. The Anti-Defamation League strongly condemned Lepper for accepting these titles.[11]

2007 political developments[edit]

Lepper in 2009

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.

He was one of the candidates in the 2010 Polish presidential election, but received just 1.28% of votes and so did not proceed into the second round.

Death[edit]

Lepper was found dead in his Warsaw office on 5 August 2011. Police said that he likely committed suicide.[14] The public prosecutor's office conducted a year-long investigation to determine possible motives for his suicide as well. Lepper hanged himself from a ceiling hook for a boxing punch bag. After his autopsy, foul play was ruled out. The investigation ended in late 2012. It was determined that Lepper suffered from a crushing depression due to his enormous debts on all fronts including at his farm, his spectacular political defeat and the sex scandals.[15]

References[edit]

  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. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  2. ^ Sexual harassment allegations plague Poland's deputy PM. The Raw Story. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  3. ^ Seite 2 von 2 | polen: Ich, der Diktator | ZEIT ONLINE. Zeit.de (2004-06-17). Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  4. ^ Gelb, Leslie H.. (2013-08-30) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. International Herald Tribune. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  5. ^ Polish Students March in Warsaw, Protest Coalition Government
  6. ^ The Institute for Ethics and Economic Policy (IEEP) at Fordham University. Fordham.edu. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  7. ^ Kącki, Marcin (2006-12-04). "Praca za seks w Samoobronie" (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Professorship for Lepper Science and Scholarship in Poland Information Service. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
  10. ^ "Lepper odebrał w Moskwie doktorat honoris causa" (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  11. ^ ADL Condemns Polish Deputy PM for Accepting Honor from Anti-Semitic University. Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
  12. ^ Judy Dempsey, "Polish leader considers early elections", International Herald Tribune, July 10, 2007.
  13. ^ Dorota Bartyzel and Marta Waldoch, "Polish Self Defense Party Quits Coalition; Early Elections Loom", Bloomberg.com, August 5, 2007.
  14. ^ BBC News – Poland's Andrzej Lepper dead
  15. ^ Marcin Kącki (2012-12-19). "Prokuratura ustaliła, dlaczego Andrzej Lepper popełnił samobójstwo (The public prosecutor's office determined suicide motives)". Kraj (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Zyta Gilowska
Deputy Prime Minister of Poland
2006
Succeeded by
Ludwik Dorn
Preceded by
Krzysztof Jurgiel
Minister of Agriculture
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Wojciech Mojzesowicz
Preceded by
Ludwik Dorn
Deputy Prime Minister of Poland
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Przemysław Gosiewski
Party political offices
Preceded by
None
Leader of Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland
1992–2011
Succeeded by
TBD