Sarkozy's outburst rings bells

2008-02-25 16:06

Warsaw - French President Nicolas Sarkozy's slanging match with a man who refused to shake his hand rings bells for Poles, whose own leader has not been allowed to forget how he once insulted a voter.

Sarkozy's "Get lost, you stupid bastard" outburst on Saturday at a Paris agriculture show was a flashback to Polish President Lech Kaczynski's sharp street exchange in 2002.

And like Sarkozy, Kaczynski was also exposed on the internet, with his remarks proving an enduring hit among Polish web surfers.

Kaczynski had yet to become president when he was caught out in November 2002 while campaigning to be mayor of Warsaw.

He was jeered by a passer-by who accused politicians of being "rats" for turning a blind eye to the problems of ordinary Poles.

"Spieprzaj dziadu," Kaczynski responded - an insult which translates as "Piss off, you old git!"

The exchange was reported in Polish newspapers and captured on camera - allowing the footage to haunt Kaczynski ever since, thanks to internet video-sharing sites.

Poland's opposition parties regularly resurrected the phrase to attack the conservative-nationalist Kaczynski, and notably to undermine the family-values image of his Law and Justice party, which was in power from 2005 until it lost a snap election last October.

The anti-Kaczynski camp created website and thousands of Poles began sporting rubber wristbands marked with the phrase.

The liberal Civic Platform used footage of Kaczynski's outburst in its election campaign last year, when it beat Law and Justice and ousted Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president's identical twin, from the job of premier.