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, 68, 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, per the AP. Later, a Law and Justice party rep tweeted a picture of him engrossed in his reading, and retweeted an image showing a cat reading a book about Kaczynski, who has owned cats over the years and is known to help strays. It's a trait that at times has softened the image of someone otherwise seen as a cunning and unrelenting political strategist.
Among those who saw a PR stunt, however, 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. Polish media spotted irony in the fact that the book Kaczynski read was published by Ringier Axel Springer, a German-Swiss publisher with a strong presence in Poland's media market. Kaczynski is calling for a law to limit foreign ownership of media, arguing that the strong presence of foreign media owners hurts Poland's national interest. Lawmakers on Friday debated several issues, including controversial changes to the justice system that would give the ruling party greater control over the Supreme Court and the appointment of judges. A vote on the overhaul is expected in coming weeks.