WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s most powerful politician openly read a book about cats during a session of parliament Friday, setting off a slew of jokes but also accusations that he was trying to distract voters from a controversial overhaul of the judicial system.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the country’s ruling party and a well-known cat lover, seemed fully absorbed in the small handbook, “Atlas of Cats: Wild and Domestic” in the early part of Friday’s legislative session.
Later, the Law and Justice party spokeswoman Beata Mazurek tweeted a picture of him engrossed in his reading, with the caption : “May the pre-holiday reading of chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski encourage us to support animal shelters and the people who help animals.” She also re-tweeted an image showing a cat reading a book about Kaczynski.
Among those who saw a PR stunt was opposition lawmaker Michal Szczerba, who accused the party of trying to soften Kaczynski’s image even as “democracy is collapsing” in Poland.
“Let us not be fooled,” Szczerba, of the Civic Platform party, wrote on Twitter.
Lawmakers debated several issues, including controversial changes to the country’s justice system that would give the ruling party greater control over the Supreme Court and the appointment of judges. Law and Justice says the changes are needed to reform a broken system. The European Union, however, says the changes would violate the separation of powers and the rule of law.
A vote on the judicial overhaul is expected in coming weeks.
Kaczynski, 68, has owned cats over the years and is known to help strays. The trait has at times softened the image of a man who is otherwise seen as a cunning and unrelenting political strategist.
Monika Scislowska contributed.