Bronislaw Komorowski (pictured) beat out right-wing rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president's twin brother, in a close presidential poll that was called after president Lech Kaczynski was killed in an April plane crash along with 95 others.
AFP - Poland's liberals held all the reins of power Monday after their candidate Bronislaw Komorowski foiled eurosceptic Jaroslaw Kaczynski's audacious bid to replace his late twin in a presidential election.
Komorowski scored 53.01 percent of votes over 46.99 percent for his conservative rival in Sunday's run-off, sparked by the April 10 air crash death of president Lech Kaczynski, full official results showed.
Turnout was 55.31 percent, election commission head Stefan Jaworski said.
The victory of Komorowski -- who as speaker of parliament became acting president after the crash -- means the liberal Civic Platform party controls both the government and the presidency, after a long power struggle.
Ex-prime minister Kaczynski, chief of the opposition Law and Justice party, conceded defeat late Sunday as exit polls showed he had failed in his quest to succeed his identical twin brother.
The race between Komorowski, 58, and Kaczynski, 61, marked the latest round in a bitter battle between their camps, once allies in the communist-era Solidarity opposition.
Komorowski vowed, however, to end the bad blood in the former communist EU nation of 38 million.
"Divisions are an inseparable part of democracy," Komorowski said late Sunday. "But we have work to do to ensure these divisions don't prevent cooperation."
Komorowski is a close ally of liberal Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Underdog Lech Kaczynski beat Tusk in a 2005 presidential race marked by mudslinging beyond that often seen in Polish politics.
Jaroslaw was his brother's premier in 2006-2007 but lost a general election to Civic Platform after his controversial coalition with populists and the far right unravelled.
Thereafter, Law and Justice counted on Lech, who used presidential veto powers 18 times to block the liberals' laws.
Lech was expected to seek a second five-year term in a vote later this year but had trailed Komorowski in polls.
Jaroslaw struggled to shake off his confrontational image and failed to build on the outpouring of sympathy after his twin's death.
Lech, his wife Maria and 94 other Poles died when the presidential jet crashed on April 10 in Russia as their delegation landed for a World War II commemoration.
With an eye on core conservatives -- older, small-town or rural dwellers, in contrast with younger, urban liberals -- the twins battled welfare and health service reforms and a new privatisation drive.
The liberals underscored that Poland was alone in the 27-nation European Union in posting economic growth last year but said gaping holes in state coffers needed plugging.
Holding all the levers now will test the Tusk government.
Poland holds municipal polls later this year and a general election in 2011.
With belt-tightening a potential vote-loser, political scientist Stanislaw Mocek said Civic Platform was in a bind.
"They're between the hammer and the anvil, between reform expectations and the looming elections. There won't be any reforms this year," he claimed.
The Polish tabloid Fakt put it bluntly: "You have all the power now. Show us what you've got. You have a year."
Jaroslaw Kaczynski is already looking to upset the liberals' drive.
"This was a great rehearsal," he told supporters.
"We have to continue changing Poland: there are elections ahead of us, local and parliamentary. We have to continue to be mobilised, we must win," he added.
US President Barack Obama called Komorowski to congratulate him on his win, a White House statement said.
"The president invited President Komorowski to visit Washington, and he looks forward to continued close cooperation with President Komorowski and the Polish government to address our common challenges in the years ahead."
Sunday's vote was watched closely by its EU partners, which ex-communist Poland joined in 2004. The Kaczynskis often clashed with other leaders, notably of Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wished Komorowski every success.
"I am delighted to be abe to further deepen the relationship of trust between our two countries...," she said.
European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso congratulated Komorowski, saying he was "sure that under your presidency, Poland will prosper ever more within the European Union."
Date created : 2010-07-05