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Poland lower house speaker assumes interim presidency after plane crash

[JURIST] Polish Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski [official websites, in Polish] became the interim Polish president on Saturday after elected President Lech Kaczynski [official website; BBC obituary] died in a plane crash [press release]. Komorowski must now announce [Reuters report] the date of the next presidential elections within two weeks. The elections must be held within two months of the official announcement. Under Article 131 of the Polish Constitution [text], the "Marshal of the House of Representatives (Sejm) shall, until the time of election of a new President of the Republic, temporarily discharge the duties of the President of the Republic." In his first official act, Komorowski declared a week of national mourning [Times Online report] for those who died in the plane crash, including [LAT report] the Polish military chief of staff, the president of the national bank, the deputy foreign minister, the deputy parliament speaker, the civil rights commissioner, and several members of parliament.

In primary elections held in March, Komorowski was chosen [AP report] as the presidential candidate for the current ruling party, Civic Platform [party website]. At the time, it was uncertain whether Kaczynski would run for re-election. Kaczynski and the other 89 passengers of the plane that crashed on Saturday were traveling to Katyn, where they were to participate in a memorial service for the victims of a 1940 massacre [JURIST news archive], in which 20,000 Poles were killed by the USSR. In February, the Polish government joined a lawsuit [JURIST report] before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] alleging that the Russian government failed to provide adequate investigations into the incident and did not grant victim status to 13 relatives of those killed.

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