Warsaw (AFP) – Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful leader of Poland’s governing right-wing party left hospital on Friday after 37 days, with his long absence from the public eye for knee treatment fuelling rumours about his health.
The 68-year-old leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) party who is no stranger to controversy was seen using a crutch as he left Warsaw’s WIM military hospital.
Confirming that Kaczynski had been discharged, the hospital’s director said in a statement that he had undergone “surgery and therapy to treat “joint degeneration” and “stabilise his health”.
Kaczynski’s treatment was “complex” and called for an “interdisciplinary” approach, the statement said, adding he would continue therapy as an outpatient.
Polish media have been rife with speculation over his absence, with a recent edition of the opposition liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily going so far as to suggest that rivals inside the PiS party were already fighting to succeed him should his illness prove to be a serious one.
Polish media often mention his close associate Joachim Brudzinski, who is currently the interior minister, in this regard.
Although Kaczynski is a member of parliament who holds no formal government office his powerful grip on the PiS party — which holds a majority — means he is widely seen as Poland’s ultimate power broker.
Since coming to power in 2015, the PiS government has come under heavy criticism at home and abroad over a slew of reforms that critics say erode democratic standards and the rule of law.
The European Union launched legal action against the PiS government in December over reforms that it fears will limit judicial independence.
But the PiS administration has also gained popularity among some Polish voters for its generous social spending, including a new monthly child benefit and lowering the pension age.