96 people dead, all high ranking members of the Polish government dead after a fatal plane crash.
In the dark aftermath of the plane crash that claimed the lives of Poland’s president and dozens of top politicians and policy makers, Poles found solace and even hope in the performance of their young democracy.
As the body of President Lech Kaczynski was returned to this traumatized capital on Sunday, and the nation entered a second day of mourning on Monday, there was already a sense that the state was facing up to a major test, with a smooth transition and surprising unity in a long-fractured political environment.
“I am truly impressed and really amazed, to be honest,” said Violetta Sajdak, 35, a teacher who was pushing her year-old son in a stroller on the main boulevard where crowds gathered to pay their respects to the president. Although she was worried about the fate of the conservatives, who lost many of their top leaders in the plane crash in western Russia on Saturday, she said the system had performed well.
The electoral mechanisms to replace the officials among the 96 people killed on the plane were functioning according to plan, and senior Polish officials reassured the public that the government would continue to operate normally.
Military leaders were immediately succeeded on an interim basis by their subordinates. Members of Parliament will be replaced automatically by the next-highest vote winner from the same party in the electoral region.
The first deputy president of the National Bank, Piotr Wiesiolek, assumed the duties of the institution’s president. The bank issued a statement saying it was “functioning without disruption and performing all of the statutory tasks of the central bank.”
A tragic situation that would test any nation let alone a potential for a derailing of Polish/Russian diplomatic relations. Thankfully, a thorough investigation is being supported by Russian officials and will be given high visibility as Russian President Medvedev has charged Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with overseeing the crash.