Kaczynski and Komorowski eye presidency before vote
As Poland prepares to vote Sunday in round two of presidential elections, polls have placed acting President Bronislaw Komorowski (photo) neck and neck in the race with late President Lech Kaczynski's conservative twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
AFP - Poland's presidential rivals pushed to the wire Friday in the final hours of campaigning in an election forced by the death in an air crash of Lech Kaczynski, twin brother of one of the candidates.
Liberal Bronislaw Komorowski and conservative Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president's brother, each have 45 percent backing according to a fresh poll, suggesting that Sunday's race could be far tighter than previously forecast and that floating voters will be the kingmakers.
Most other polls, however, have repeatedly put Komorowski comfortably ahead.
He came top in a June 20 first round of voting, ahead of Kaczynski, but failed to score the 50 percent needed to win outright.
President Kaczynski perished on April 10 when his official jet crashed in Smolensk, western Russia as it landed for a World War II commemoration.
A total of 96 people died in the disaster, among them the president's wife, senior politicians and the Polish military's top brass.
Still reeling, Poland was battered in May and June by the worst floods in decades which killed 24 and forced thousands from their homes.
Both disasters have overshadowed the campaign, which ends officially at midnight Friday when a pre-vote blackout comes into force.
The result will set the tone of Polish politics because it could end -- or extend -- a logjam caused by wrangling between the conservatives and liberals.
Elected president in 2005 after pipping liberal candidate Donald Tusk -- who is now prime minister -- Lech Kaczynski had been expected to stand in an autumn election.
But with his popularity having slumped since he won office, he was not expected to win a second term.
Komorowski, of Tusk's liberal Civic Platform party, became acting president after the crash because he is speaker of parliament.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski -- leader of the twins' Law and Justice party -- was prime minister in 2006-2007 but lost power to the liberals in a general election.
After Law and Justice was ousted, it relied on Lech Kaczynski to hobble the liberals. He used his veto powers 18 times to block government legislation.
With an eye on core conservative voters -- who tend to be older, small-town or rural residents, in contrast with younger, urban liberals -- the twins battled to hold up welfare reforms and a new privatisation drive.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski has been struggling to shake off his hardball, divisive image, which Komorowski spotlighted at a rally Friday.
"He has has always been a source of conflict and disagreement. That is a fundamental difference between us," Komorowski said.
"This really is a crucial battle to shape our nation," he added.
Komorowski won 41.5 percent of the first-round vote. Kaczynski was hard on his heels with 36.5 percent.
But supporters of left-wing Social Democrat Grzegorz Napieralski could swing Sunday's result. He came third with an unexpectedly-high 13.7 percent on June 20.
Both Komorowski and Kaczynski have courted his voters.
Komorowski has backed equal numbers of male and female candidates in elections and called for Polish troops to leave Afghanistan by 2012.
Kaczynski has pushed a pro-welfare message.
He has even praised a past communist leader as a patriot. That has riled right-wing supporters who preferred his past broadsides against the Social Democrats, a movement spun from the communist party after the regime fell in 1989.
Both Law and Justice and Civic Platform emerged from the anti-regime movement Solidarity, whose roots Kaczynski tapped at a rally.
"Today's choice is between cold neo-liberalism and a Poland based on solidarity, a Poland that is fair," he said.
Sunday's vote is also a test before municipal elections later this year and parliamentary polls in late 2011.
It will also be watched closely elsewhere in the EU, which ex-communist Poland joined in 2004.