Late Polish president’s twin heads to runoff vote with moderate interim leader

By Vanessa Gera, AP
Monday, June 21, 2010

Late Polish president’s twin heads to runoff vote

WARSAW, Poland — The socially conservative twin of the late Polish president was headed for a runoff Monday with the moderate, pro-European leader who took his brother’s place after he died in a plane crash.

The outcome is expected to shape the country’s direction on a wide range of issues, including the adoption of the euro, welfare reform and even its mission in Afghanistan.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski and interim President Bronislaw Komorowski will face each other on July 4 after neither was able muster the 50 percent needed for outright victory.

Kaczynski’s policies are essentially identical to those of his deceased brother and he would be widely expected to pursue the same platform. Lech Kaczynski who was killed along with his wife and 95 other people in the crash of a plane of dignitaries trying to land in heavy fog in Smolensk, Russia, on April 10. Many called it the worst tragedy to strike Poland since World War II.

Lech Kaczynski, often considered the less forceful and charismatic of the two brothers, favored a strong welfare state and was skeptical of closer ties to the EU. The Kaczynskis’ base is made up of older, rural and observant Catholic Poles who favor upholding the country’s strict abortion laws and oppose gay rights.

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

Observers say the close results should spur Komorowski to invigorate his lackluster campaign and seek new supporters. Worried former President Lech Walesa — a longtime foe of the Kaczynski twins — pledged his support.

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.

As president, Komorowski would give Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government a green light for further pro-market reforms in this eastern European country of 38 million — the largest of the ex-communist countries to join the European Union in recent years.

Based on more than 94 percent of voting stations reporting, Komorowski had 41.22 percent of the votes and Kaczynski had 36.74 percent, the State Electoral Commission said. Turnout there was 54.85 percent.

Full official results are expected later in the day.

Political analyst Wojciech Jablonski said the results were a defeat for Komorowski’s campaign team, which was drawn from Tusk’s governing Civic Platform party.

“If they don’t breathe life and energy into the campaign, Kaczynski will win, just like in the 2005 elections,” Jablonski said, referring to Lech Kaczynski’s unexpected win then over favored Tusk.

Komorowski needs to find more backers, most likely among voters for center-left candidate Grzegorz Napieralski, the third place winner Sunday who won almost 14 percent of votes — a stronger than expected showing.

Already on Sunday Komorowski, 58, asked Poles for more support and specially congratulated Napieralski, whose Democratic Left Alliance is the heir to the former communist party. It was a notable gesture from a former anti-communist.

Kaczynski, a former anti-communist himself who has made it a mission in recent years to root former communists out of public life, also made a point of praising Napieralski in his speech Sunday night. He noted that Napieralski had made a constructive gesture of proposing talks on reforming the health system.

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

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