Poland holds presidential runoff between acting leader and dead president’s twin brother

By Monika Scislowska, AP
Friday, July 2, 2010

Twin brother or acting leader? Poles to choose

WARSAW, Poland — Poland holds a presidential runoff Sunday between the former leader’s charismatic twin brother and the country’s dutiful acting president, men with similar anti-communist roots and Catholic backgrounds but sharply different outlooks.

The outcome is expected to shape Poland’s economy as well as determine how soon it adopts the euro currency and when it winds down its military mission in Afghanistan.

The early election is the result of President Lech Kaczynski’s death in an April 10 plane crash that also killed his wife Maria and 94 others, including many high-ranking military and government officials.

The first vote June 20 ended with no candidate winning an absolute majority, leading to Sunday’s runoff between acting President and Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, and former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of Lech.

June’s vote among 10 candidates saw 41.5 percent support for Komorowski and 36.5 percent for Kaczynski. Yet a survey published Friday showed no statistical difference between them — a reflection of rising support for Kaczynski.

Poland’s president has many ceremonial duties, but he can also veto laws, and as commander in chief has influence on foreign military operations.

Komorowski, a moderate in the governing pro-EU Civic Platform party, has been favored through most of the campaign, mostly because his government steered Poland well through Europe’s financial storm.

But Kaczynski’s traditional conservative voter base has been reinforced by sympathy votes following his brother’s death and the toning down of his image.

Komorowski has pledged to work closely with the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk to adopt the euro in about five years, end the military mission in Afghanistan in 2012, promote pro-market reforms and keep the Catholic church separate from the state.

Kaczynski has toned down his combative and anti-communist style but kept his conservative views on family life and stressed his Catholicism. A noted euroskeptic, Kaczynski has vowed to fight for more EU funds to help Poland’s poor farm regions and is reluctant to set a timetable for the adoption of the euro.

While Kaczynski is seen as the more charismatic candidate, many Poles remember the chaotic government he led from 2006-2007 and his zealousness in trying to eliminate former communists from public life.

A telephone poll by Gfk Polonia of 1,000 adults published Friday by the Rzeczpospolita daily gave Kaczynski 49 percent of vote to Komorowski’s 47 percent — within the error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.

More than 30 million of Poland’s 38 million citizens are registered to vote. Exit polls will be released when polls close Sunday but full official results are not expected until Monday.

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