Poland elects late president’s successor

Voting was under way in Poland’s
presidential elections on Sunday, more than two months after the country’s last
president, Lech Kaczynski, was killed in a plane crash.

The late president’s identical twin
brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, faces an uphill battle to defeat the favourite,
acting president Bronislaw Komorowski, despite a recent surge in sympathy for
him.

The outcome is expected to shape
Poland’s stance on issues such as the adoption of the euro, welfare reform and
its mission in Afghanistan.

Poland is the only European Union
country to have avoided recession during the global economic downturn. The
election will also determine how it reacts to the new debt crisis.

Komorowski is a pro-EU, moderate
member of the governing Civic Platform party who has pledged to work closely
with the 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 is a social
conservative who has pledged to fight crime and corruption, scale back market
reforms in order to preserve a strong welfare state and promote Roman Catholic
values in public life. More sceptical about the EU and the euro, Kaczynski says
it is too early to set a timetable for giving up the Polish currency, the
zloty.

Kaczynski, a former prime minister,
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 whether the
change is permanent or a strategy to win over middle-of-the-road voters.

Opinions were split in Warsaw early
today. Komorowski’s supporters stressed his calm and ties to the governmentk,
while backers of Kaczynski called him trustworthy and said he truly cares for
Poland’s interests.

Jan Rostafinski said he voted for
Komorowski, whom he knows personally. “He is the best among the candidates: he
has rich experience, moderate views and a sense of humour, which the
predecessor was lacking, or at least so it seemed. Komorowski will represent
Poland well,” Rostafinski said.

But Ewa Stawinska said she would
vote for Kaczynski because she thought it was better for the president and the
prime minister to be from different parties. She liked the fact that he stands
for Catholic values in public life and believed he would push for a thorough
investigation of the plane crash that Poles call the “Smolensk tragedy”.

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 10 April. The delegation included many high-ranking
civilian and military leaders, and the loss provoked deep grief across the nation.
Many officials have called it Poland’s worst tragedy since the second world
war.

More than 30 million of Poland’s 38
million citizens are registered to vote in nearly 26,000 polling stations
across.

One opinion poll published on
Friday by the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper showed Komorowski had the support
of 42 per cent of those surveyed, to Kaczynski’s 31 per cent.

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