Lech Kaczynski was sworn in as Poland's new president Friday, crowning the rise to power of conservative leaders who pledged to fight corruption, boost the economy and distance the country from its communist past. In his first remarks after taking the oath of office, Kaczynski said Poland would continue to pursue strong relations with the United States and pledged to make ties with Russia "an important issue" for his presidency.
Kaczynski inherits a close alliance with the U.S. and tense relations with Moscow from Aleksander Kwasniewski, an ex-communist who has been president for the past decade. However, he focused a speech to parliament on his favored domestic issues,among them, cleansing the country of corruption. "The state is not performing its duties properly," the 56-year-old former Solidarity activist and ex-Warsaw mayor said as he began his five-year term. "For that reason, it must be cleansed and rebuilt."
As mayor and during the presidential campaign, Kaczynski called for removing former communists from public offices. He indicated he would continue on that course, but without causing unnecessary social divisions. "Our country requires that old accounts be squared, but it also needs accord and unity," Kaczynski said in a 20-minute speech greeted by frequent applause.
Kaczynski had appeared nervous as he was sworn in, failing to raise his hand as he promised to "observe the constitution and to protect the freedom and independence of Poland." He completed the oath with the words "so help me God",an optional phrase that was skipped by Kwasniewski. The swearing-in began a program of ceremonies that promised to make the handover the most pomp-filled transition of power in decades, reflecting the new leader's nationalist and traditionalist inclinations.
A special Mass was to be held later in Warsaw's landmark St. John's Cathedral, underlining Kaczynski's commitment to Roman Catholic values. He also was to take command of the army in an outdoor ceremony on a large Warsaw square, reports the AP. N.U.