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Europe

Ruling party candidate tops first round of presidential election

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-21

Bronislaw Komorowski (pictured), the candidate of Poland's ruling Civic Platform party (PO), won the first round of presidential elections on Sunday with about 40 percent of the votes, setting up a run-off poll next month.

REUTERS - Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Poland’s ruling pro-business Civic Platform (PO), led his rivals in Sunday’s presidential election, exit polls indicated, but not by enough to avoid a run-off on July 4.
 
Komorowski, the speaker of the lower house of parliament and acting president, won 41 percent of the vote against 36 percent for Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the right-wing main opposition party Law and Justice (PiS), according to a poll by TNS OBOP reported on public television.
 
Another exit poll gave Komorowski 46 percent against 33 percent for Kaczynski.
 
Sunday’s election, billed as the strangest in Poland’s 21-year post-communist history, was called after the death of President Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw’s twin brother, and many other top officials in a plane crash in Russia on April 10.
 
Grzegorz Napieralski, candidate of the leftist SLD party, did better than expected with about 13 percent of the vote. But he and the other seven candidates now drop out of the race, leaving Komorowski and Kaczynski to fight the second round.
 
“Let’s mobilise our forces for July 4,” Komorowski told jubilant supporters at his campaign headquarters.
 
The outcome matters to investors and financial markets because the president, though less powerful than the government, can veto laws, appoints many key officials and has a say in foreign and security policy.
 
Lech Kaczynski had angered Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s economically liberal government by blocking some reforms.
 
Markets wary of Kaczynski
 
Financial markets would welcome a Komorowski victory because he would be expected to work smoothly with the government as it tries to rein in a large budget deficit and to prepare Poland for eventual euro entry.
 
Kaczynski would be likely to use his presidential veto to block some reforms, just as his brother did. However, during the campaign he toned down his rhetoric and said he would seek compromises if elected, hoping to win over centrist voters.
 
“Instead of harsh, improper and unjust words, we want to have meaningful dialogue,” Kaczynski told his supporters after the exit polls were released.
 
Jaroslaw Kaczynski served as prime minister briefly from 2006 to 2007 when his nationalist views, particularly his deep suspicion of Germany and Russia, severely strained Poland’s relations with its neighbours and with the European Union.
 
The April plane crash sparked an upsurge of sympathy for Jaroslaw, a bachelor who was close to his brother. Some voters said they were voting for Kaczynski because they saw him as the champion of ordinary Poles against powerful elites.
 
Tusk’s government will be hoping that Poland’s relatively strong performance during the global financial crisis will boost support for their candidate in the final round of voting.
 
Poland was the only member of the 27-strong European Union to avoid recession last year when its economy expanded 1.8 percent. It is expected to grow about 3 percent in 2010.
 
The better-than-expected performance of leftist candidate Napieralski on Sunday bodes well for Komorowski as many left-leaning voters dislike Kaczynski’s more nationalistic, eurosceptical brand of conservatism.
 
Both Komorowski and Kaczynski, seeking the leftist vote, praised Napieralski’s performance in their public remarks to their supporters on Sunday evening.
 
Turnout was 52 percent, slightly higher than in the last presidential election in 2005. About 30 million Poles out of a population of 38 million had been eligible to vote.
 
Authorities laid on special transport for voters in some regions badly affected by floods after heavy spring rains, but few seemed to take advantage of the help.
 
“The half an hour or so it would take me to go and vote are the equivalent of dozens of buckets of mud and slime I can remove from my house,” one resident told TVN24 television.
 
The floods in May and early June killed at least 24 people, forced the evacuation of tens of thousands and caused billions of zlotys’ worth of damage in southern and central Poland.

 

Date created : 2010-06-20

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