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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » May 7, 2015
Politics & Society
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Countdown to Presidential Elections
May 7, 2015   
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With just days left to Poland’s presidential elections, two candidates—incumbent Bronisław Komorowski and Andrzej Duda, a contender backed by the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party—are well ahead of the rest of the pack, opinion polls show.

Komorowski, who has been the favorite since the start of the race, is hoping for over 50 percent of the vote, which would secure him a clean win May 10 without the need for a second round of voting.

Komorowski is formally running as an independent candidate, but in reality he represents the Civic Platform (PO) party, which has governed Poland for over seven years. A poll conducted by the Millward Brown polling center in mid-April showed 45-percent support for Komorowski, while 28 percent of respondents said they would vote for PiS’s Duda, who is a member of the European Parliament. If a second round of voting proved to be necessary, Komorowski would win with 55 percent of the vote, against Duda’s 40 percent, according to the poll.

The other nine contenders are more of a backdrop in the Komorowski-Duda race. Far below Komorowski and Duda, with 6 percent of support, is Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a radical, far-right politician who is a member of the European Parliament. He shares the No. 3 spot with veteran rock singer Paweł Kukiz, who describes himself as an “independent and anti-establishment candidate.” The 6-percent support for both is a major surprise, putting them ahead of a number of contenders put forward by well-established political parties represented in parliament. Magdalena Ogórek, backed by the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), managed a mere 4 percent in the poll, and Adam Jarubas of the Polish People’s Party (PSL), the PO’s junior partner in the governing coalition, scored even lower, at just 2 percent, the same as Janusz Palikot, the flamboyant leader of the liberal Your Movement party.

Each of the four contenders that came in last in the poll scored below 1 percent. These include Marian Kowalski, leader of a nationalistic grouping called the National Movement (RN), and controversial film director Grzegorz Braun.

The key slogan of Komorowski’s re-election campaign is “Choose Consent and Security,” and he has on several occasions described the presidential race as a choice between a “rational Poland” that he says he represents and a “radical Poland” represented by Duda. In recent weeks, Komorowski has also repeatedly highlighted his plans to improve life for young people. According to political scientists, this is something 62-year-old Komorowski needs to stress as a counterpoint to the youthful appeal of Duda, aged 42.

Duda’s campaign aims to convince voters that Komorowski has “ignored the voice of the public” throughout his term. According to Duda, this is best exemplified by the fact that Komorowski condoned the government’s decision to raise the retirement age from 65 years for men and 60 for women to 67 for both sexes despite public protests. PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński has promised to lower the retirement age again if his party takes over the reins of power.

Duda said in an interview that Polish people have been enormously successful in recent years. “They are resourceful, energetic and every day they prove that Poland has potential,” Duda said. “Sadly… the authorities are making things hard for people instead of helping them. Elected by popular vote, the president should firmly stand up against any policies that harm people.”

While Duda’s chances of outperforming Komorowski are slim and second place seems to be all he can hope for, according to the polls, a strong second-round showing could do a lot to motivate PiS supporters ahead of this October’s parliamentary elections. Polls point to a tie between the PO and PiS, so a lot will depend on how undecided voters will behave.

Meanwhile, the poor opinion poll ratings for the presidential candidates backed by some of the smaller parties are a warning sign for the PSL, the left-wing SLD and especially for Your Movement, which was the dark horse of the last parliamentary elections and is now crumbling apart.

Some polls show a two-party system could emerge in Poland in the fall because even if some parties manage the 5-percent level of voter support needed to make it into parliament, they may have too few seats to make a difference. That could lead to a situation in which a new government would be extremely hard to form, because both the PO and PiS may have problems finding coalition partners and neither is likely to win enough seats to form a majority Cabinet on its own.

The future looks particularly bleak for the SLD, which governed the country 2001-2005. The SLD suffered a painful defeat in last year’s local elections and is still struggling to regain voter support. The party’s ratings took a dive after it put forward Magdalena Ogórek as its presidential candidate. Ogórek, 36, is an academic specializing in the history of the church and a newcomer to politics. The idea to enter her in the elections came from SLD leader and former prime minister Leszek Miller, and it has been widely criticized by other SLD bigwigs. At the beginning of the campaign, Ogórek instantly alienated the media by refusing to speak in public and answer any questions from journalists. In the few public statements she has since given, she has made a few highly controversial remarks, saying that Polish laws need to be “rewritten” and that should would “call Vladimir Putin” as soon as she is elected president. After some initial interest, Ogórek’s ratings peaked at 8 percent, but they have dropped since then and now Ogórek is scoring lower in the polls than other political newcomers such as Kukiz. Miller has said he will consider withdrawing from politics should his protégé score “an embarrassing result in the elections.”

Things are also uncertain for the PSL and the party’s contender, Adam Jarubas, who is chairman of the south-central ¦więtorzyskie province. Jarubas, 41, seems to be having a hard time winning the support of rural communities even though these traditionally vote for the PSL. The party was hugely successful in recent local elections and while presidential elections have never been a priority for the PSL, Jarubas’s ratings of just 2 percent are worrying for the party in the run-up to the parliamentary vote.

Meanwhile, the presidential campaign has been a major success for the far-right Korwin party recently founded by Janusz Korwin-Mikke. Korwin-Mikke is No. 3 in the polls and his party came ahead of the SLD and the PSL in a recent survey asking Poles how they are likely to vote in the parliamentary elections. consequently, Korwin could become the third largest party in parliament later this year. But given Korwin-Mikke’s radical views, other parties are likely to be reluctant to see his grouping as a viable coalition partner.


Presidential Powers
Under the constitution, the President of Poland:
- is the supreme representative of the country and guarantees the continued authority of the state
- ensures that the constitution is observed, safeguards the sovereignty and security of the country and its territorial inviolability and integrity

Citizens elect the president for a five-year term in a popular, direct and secret ballot. The president can only be reelected once.

Presidential candidates must be Polish citizens, eligible to vote, aged at least 35 years on election day, and supported by at least 100,000 people eligible to vote.

As the supreme representative of Poland, the president:
- ratifies and terminates international agreements, notifying the lower and upper houses of parliament
- appoints and dismisses Polish diplomatic envoys to other countries and international organizations
- is the recipient of letters of accreditation for diplomatic representatives of other states and international organizations, as well as of notes recalling them

- The president is the commander-in-chief of Poland’s armed forces, though in peace time the day-to-day duties of this role are exercised by the defense minister
- The president appoints the chief of the general staff and commanders of the different branches of the armed forces
- The president awards military ranks at the request of the defense minister
- If national security is directly threatened, the president declares full or partial mobilization and orders the armed forces to defend the country, at the request of the prime minister.

The president confers Polish citizenship and gives consent to individuals to give up their citizenship. The president also confers orders and other decorations and has the right to pardon offenders, except for those convicted by the State Tribunal.

If accused of violating the constitution, Polish law, or committing a crime, the president can be indicted before the State Tribunal if two-thirds of the joint assembly of the upper and lower houses so vote, following a motion submitted by at least 140 members of parliament or senators.
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