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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » February 27, 2015
Politics & Society
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Komorowski Ahead In Presidential Race
February 27, 2015   
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Although polls show that incumbent Bronisław Komorowski is set to win Poland’s May 10 presidential election hands down in the first round, the opposition is not giving up hope.

According to a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) Feb. 5-11 on a representative, random sample of 1,003 adult citizens, 63 percent of those planning to go to the polls say they are going to vote for Komorowski. The candidate of the conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, Andrzej Duda, can hope to garner only 15 percent of the vote.

All the other contenders received single-digit support. Magdalena Ogórek, fielded by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), received 3 percent support, and the same is true of far-right leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke. Adam Jarubas from the rural-based Polish People’s Party (PSL) received 2 percent support; the Green Party’s Anna Grodzka and Your Movement’s Janusz Palikot both received 1 percent.

Eight percent of respondents said they were not yet sure who they were going to vote for; 70 percent of the respondents said they planned to vote; 20 percent were undecided, and 10 percent planned to stay home on election day.

In spite of the comfortable lead of the incumbent president, PiS leaders say they are confident Komorowski will fail to muster the over 50-percent support needed for a first-round win, leading to a second round of voting. Their candidate opened his campaign Feb. 7 in American fashion: the party convention was a high-profile, colorful spectacle that included artists supporting Duda’s bid for the presidency.

Duda, 42, is a doctor of law and works at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. He was deputy minister of justice under Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, who held office in 2006-2007, and also worked in the President’s Office under Lech Kaczyński. Duda is a scouting activist, a former member of the Polish parliament, and a former member of the State Tribunal. Currently, he is a member of the European Parliament.

During his convention, Duda said that he had decided to run for head of state because “Poland needs an active president again.” In his speech, he repeatedly referred to the presidency of Lech Kaczyński and portrayed himself as his successor. He also said that a president must make use of his constitutional powers. “The primary duty of the president of Poland is to take care of the nation and society. This is because the president is the only one who receives a mandate from the people. It is a mandate given by society at large and with it come not only constitutional powers, but also great presidential responsibilities. The key responsibility of the president is taking care of what matters to society, showing openness to these matters, protecting people from harm, and shielding them from any unwelcome changes that those in power might seek to introduce through parliament,” said Duda.

“The president should never agree to sign bills that are against the interests of society as a whole; he should never agree to have public finances and government coffers rescued at the expense of the poor,” Duda added. One example is a pension reform signed into law by President Komorowski that raised the retirement age from 65 to 67. “Let me make this perfectly clear and make an agreement with all the people of Poland: if I become president, if I am elected, one of the first bills I am going to put forward to the lower house of parliament will be a bill restoring the previous retirement age,” he said.

Duda is the only candidate who stands a chance of preventing Komorowski from winning the election in the first round. The other contenders seem to be running only to promote their parties. Curiously, the largest parties have decided against fielding their leaders.

The contender representing the SLD, Ogórek, is an academic specializing in the history of the Church, known for her TV appearances in debates about religion. She used to be chief of staff for former SLD leader Grzegorz Napieralski. In 2011, she ran for parliament on the party’s ticket in the southern city of Rybnik – without success. The SLD leader, Leszek Miller, has taken flak from party bigwigs for fielding Ogórek in the presidential race. He insists the party needs a “new generation” of politicians, represented by 36-year-old Ogórek. In her first public statements as a presidential contender, Ogórek promised a thaw in relations between Warsaw and Moscow. That immediately aroused enthusiasm in the Russian media, which quoted Ogórek as an example that “not all Polish politicians are Russophobes.”

The PSL’s Jarubas, aged 39, is also little known. Although he is a deputy chairman of the party and chairman of ¦więtokrzyskie province, he was not very prominent in national politics until now. However, he started his campaign with a bang by announcing a plan to seek public debates with the other presidential hopefuls.

Meanwhile, the candidates are divided over the issue of election debates. Komorowski’s campaign staffers have said the incumbent president would only take part in a televised debate if there was a second round, which led to immediate protests from all the other contenders. In particular, PiS demanded that Komorowski face Duda in a candidate debate broadcast on television before May 10. It is not yet clear if Komorowski will agree.
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