Polish opposition picks surprise PM candidate for election

Warsaw (AFP) –


One of the leaders of Poland's main opposition group on Tuesday made the surprise announcement to step aside as candidate for the premiership in next month's general election.

Grzegorz Schetyna, a leader of the Civic Coalition (KO) group, presented deputy parliament speaker Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska as their candidate for premier.

Many had expected Schetyna himself to get the role.

"People want calm and reason, for someone to show up who 'will be able to unite you all', as they say," said Schetyna after announcing Kidawa-Blonska.

Kidawa-Blonska for her part told reporters: "Poland deserves to be a country without hatred."

Analysts see the choice as a bid to limit the damage at the forthcoming election.

The governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party is polling at 40 percent, with the KO -- which unites several parties opposed to the PiS -- trailing on 25 percent.

"Kidawa-Blonska is not very controversial and can attract more votes than Schetyna," political analyst Anna Materska-Sosnowska told AFP.

"The KO won't come in first place in the election but the extra votes could prove decisive" in terms of government coalition building, she added.

The 62-year-old Kidawa-Blonska, a philosophy graduate who worked in film production before entering politics, "could really prove to be a good face for the KO", said Materska-Sosnowska.

The PiS, in power since 2015, has built up considerable voter support through its generous social benefits, backing from the country's powerful Catholic church and an anti-LGBT stance.

The party has introduced several reforms, notably to the judiciary, that have drawn criticism from the EU, which called them a threat to judicial independence and the rule of law.

Current polling ahead of the October 13 general election puts a leftist coalition in third with 12 percent, while some polls suggest that the PSL farmers' party and a nationalist coalition could break the five-percent threshold and enter parliament.