Polish vote underway in tight presidential run-off

Poles voted Sunday in an election forced by the air-crash death of conservative president Lech Kaczynski to choose a new president.

Polish vote underway in tight presidential run-off

Poles voted Sunday in an election forced by the air-crash death of conservative president Lech Kaczynski to choose a new president.

Lech Kaczynski perished on April 10 when his jet crashed in Smolensk, western Russia as it landed for a World War II commemoration. A total of 96 people died, among them his wife, senior politicians and military top brass.

The law made parliamentary speaker Bronislaw Komorowski acting president of the nation of 38 million.

Still reeling from the crash, Poland was battered in May and June by the worst floods in decades which killed 24 and forced thousands from their homes.

"The campaign's behind us, now we await the result," the unmarried Jaroslaw Kaczynski, 61, said after voting in Warsaw alongside his bereaved niece, Marta.

Around 30 million Poles in a total population of 38 million are eligible to vote. Turnout in the first round was 54 percent. Polling stations will close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) and exit polls showing final estimated results will be published immediately.

Komorowski voted in his rural retreat Mackowa Ruda, in northeastern Poland.

Asked if he was confident, he simply told reporters: "Very".

Most opinion polls have signalled a victory for Komorowski.

However, polls usually underestimate support for Kaczynski, who has narrowed the gap in recent weeks and lagged by just five percentage points in a first round of voting on June 20.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the conservative, eurosceptic Law and Justice party, was his twin's premier in 2006-2007 but lost a general election to Tusk and Komorowski's Civic Platform.

Thereafter, Law and Justice counted on Lech Kaczynski, who used presidential veto powers 18 times to block the liberals' laws.

Komorowski took 41.5 percent of the vote in a June 20 first round -- short of the 50 percent required to win outright -- to Kaczynski's 36.5 percent.

Left-wing Social Democrat Grzegorz Napieralski scored an unexpectedly-high 13.7 percent, and seven other candidates, under two percent.

Both Komorowski and Kaczynski have courted the left.

"I voted for Kacyznski because he is honest, trustworthy and a true patriot who will do what is best for Poland," said Ryszard Krysztofik, 80, a retired TV repairman, after voting.

In Poland, the government led by the prime minister sets policy, but the president can propose and veto laws, appoints many key officials and has a say in foreign and security policy.

A musician who gave his name as Leslaw, aged 38, said: "Only Kaczynski can block the bills those free-market sharks and crooks will try to force through for the sake of their cronies."

Casting his vote after attending mass at a church in a leafy Warsaw suburb, Kaczynski said: "I appeal to everyone to vote because that is a great value of democracy."

The Komorowski camp fears that the mid-summer timing of the election, combined with unusually hot weather, will help Kaczynski as its younger, wealthier core voters are more likely to take holidays and fail to cast their ballots.

"Komorowski suits me better, especially his programme which is more pro-market," said Maciej Palasz, 33, an engineer.

"We've seen what the Kacyznskis can do, so now let's give Komorowski a chance and see how he performs," said Arkadiusz Navrocki, 25, a cook.

Though seen as capable, Komorowski lacks charisma and has also avoided sharp attacks on Kaczynski due to the latter's bereavement.

Kaczynski, a bachelor who was very close to his twin, has benefited from public sympathy since the crash. The flag above the presidential palace is still flying at half-mast until the arrival of a new head of state.

Kaczynski served briefly as prime minister in 2006-07 when his nationalist views strained ties with the EU, Germany and Russia. But he has struck a conciliatory tone on the campaign trail in a bid to win over middle-of-the-road voters.

The vote is a test before parliamentary polls in late 2011.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Temmuz 2010, 09:11

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