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Up For Grabs
July 2, 2010   
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The Warsaw Voice readers will have an advantage over us, journalists, when this issue is published just three days before the second round of the presidential election. By then, the two rivals will have confronted each other in televised debates, their campaign teams will have clashed, and perhaps some new revelations will have seen the light of day, making some voters change their minds. Several days after we hit the newsstands, readers will also know the name of the new president of Poland, which we will only be able to report on next month.

The first round of the election was won by Bronisław Komorowski, the presidential candidate of the senior governing party, the Civic Platform (PO) who is the Speaker of the lower house of parliament and the acting president of Poland since the tragic death of President Lech Kaczyński April 10. However, the difference between Komorowski and the runner-up, Jarosław Kaczyński of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party was just over 5 percent of the vote. This will ring a bell with those who remember the presidential elections of 2005 when the late Lech Kaczyński faced Donald Tusk, the current prime minister, in the second round. Like Komorowski this year, Tusk emerged the winner from the first round with a 4-percent lead (37 to 33 percent), but then lost in the runoffs. Opinion polls in the fall of 2005, which pointed to a hands-down victory for Tusk, turned out to be completely wrong. Before this year’s first-round vote June 20, the same polling centers suggested that Komorowski would win with a lead ranging from 10-12 percent to even 15-18 percent. He ended up with a 5-percent lead and so it seems that the only plausible prediction for the second round, scheduled for July 4, is that anything can happen.

Has the first election round changed anything in Polish politics? It has, but not as far as the two main candidates and their parties are concerned.

The biggest winner of the first round is Grzegorz Napieralski, the leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Several months prior to the elections, he was at 5-6 percent in the polls, but following an active election campaign, he ended up with a surprisingly good result at 14 percent of the vote—an impressive achievement given that some prominent left-wing politicians, including former prime minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, ostentatiously backed Komorowski before the elections. PiS and the PO started bending over backwards to enlist Napieralski’s support for their contenders. His success has clearly shown that the left is stronger than could be expected and that Napieralski’s position as leader of the SLD is unquestionable. His achievement may mean that the days of PO and PiS domination in Polish politics are numbered.

Komorowski, Kaczyński and Napieralski eclipsed the remaining seven candidates. One may ponder the disastrously weak showing of Waldemar Pawlak, the leader of the junior coalition partner, the Polish People’s Party (PSL), who garnered a mere 1.75 percent of the vote. Rural voters traditionally stand firm by the PSL, but this time most of their votes went to Kaczyński. Another embarrassing performance was that of independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski, who received a paltry 1.44 percent of the vote. In the presidential elections of 2000, Olechowski, who in the mid-1990s was minister of foreign affairs and finance, scored 17 percent of the vote, coming in second after Aleksander Kwa¶niewski, who secured reelection in the first round. Olechowski has been trying to make a political comeback for some time, but with little success so far.
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