Exit polls: Komorowski leads Kaczynski in Polish presidential race, runoff in 2 weeks

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Komorowski leading Kaczynski in Polish election

WARSAW, Poland — Exit polls in Poland’s presidential election Sunday show that the interim president and parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski is leading Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the brother of the president killed in a plane crash in April, but without the 50 percent needed for outright victory.

If the exit polls are confirmed by official results, a runoff vote will have to be held between Komorowski and Kaczynski on July 4.

An exit poll by Millward Brown SMG/KRC showed Komorowski with 45.7 percent of the vote and Kaczynski with 33.2 percent.

A second poll, by OBOP, showed 40.7 percent for Komorowski and 35.8 percent for Kaczynski.

Official results are expected Monday.

Komorowski told his supporters at a campaign night party in Warsaw that he felt “happy and fulfilled” knowing he has the “support and the trust of millions of voters in Poland.”

“In life as in football, overtime is the most difficult. Let’s not forget that and let’s mobilize all our forces for the grand finale on July 4,” he said.

Kaczynski thanked his supporters, as well as political opponents who set a constructive tone during what “is not a normal election; it’s an election which is the result of a huge catastrophe, a huge misfortune, a huge tragedy.”

Both exit polls gave third place to the center-left candidate, Grzegorz Napieralski, with either 13.4 or 14 percent of the vote. Seven other candidates were in the running but got only around 2 percent or less of the votes.

The final outcome will hinge to a large degree on where the Napieralski votes go.

Napieralski said he will travel and meet with his supporters before deciding whom to endorse.

But sociologist Ireneusz Krzeminski said that it is hard to imagine that the majority of Napieralski’s voters could vote for anyone other than Komorowski. Napieralski’s electorate tends to be liberal on social issues — supporting women’s rights, gay rights and opposing the strong role played by the church in society. That puts it closer to Komorowski’s Civic Platform, which appeals to secular and urban voters with its pro-business ethos, even though it pays little attention to ideological social issues.

Kaczynski’s base is made up of older, rural and religious Poles, and often pushes Catholic values, such as upholding the country’s strict abortion laws and opposing gay rights.

The president is elected for a five-year term separately from the prime minister and his government. Although many of the duties are symbolic, the president can veto laws and, as commander in chief, has influence over foreign military missions.

President Lech Kaczynski and his wife were among 96 people killed when their plane crashed while trying to land in heavy fog in Smolensk, Russia, on April 10. The delegation included many high-ranking civilian and military leaders, and their loss provoked deep grief across the nation. Many called it the worst tragedy to strike Poland since World War II.

Komorowski is a pro-European Union, moderate member of the governing Civic Platform party. He has pledged to work closely with the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk to adopt the euro in about five years, end the unpopular military mission in Afghanistan and promote pro-market reforms.

Kaczynski has made it a priority to fight crime and corruption, scale back market reforms to preserve a strong welfare state and promote Roman Catholic values. He is more skeptical about the European Union and adoption of the euro, saying it’s too early to set a timetable for giving up the Polish currency, the zloty.

A former prime minister, Kaczynski is known for his nationalism and his combative tone, but he has struck a more moderate tone since his brother’s death. Many Poles are unsure of whether the change is permanent or a campaign strategy to win over middle-of-the-road voters.


Associated Press Writer Marta Kucharska contributed to this report.

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