Polish presidential run-off may influence parliamentary election

Incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski has pitched himself to voters as the safe and experienced pair of hands

Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski: opponents have chipped away at a once comfortable lead  and he is now more than 10 points short of outright victory.   Photograph: Piotr Wittman/EPA

Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski: opponents have chipped away at a once comfortable lead and he is now more than 10 points short of outright victory. Photograph: Piotr Wittman/EPA

 

Poland’s election year kicks off tomorrow with a presidential poll that could influence the outcome of autumn parliamentary elections.

Incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland’s ruling Civic Platform (PO) is facing a run-off after opponents chipped away at a once comfortable lead to reduce his support to about 40 per cent or less, more than 10 points short of outright victory.

With 11 candidates in the race a second round is now likely, pitting him against Andrzej Duda of the national conservative Law and Justice party (PiS), gaining on 27 per cent in polls.

A strong result by Mr Duda could in turn, lift the PiS parliamentary campaign and boost the re-election hopes of its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

PO leader Ewa Kopacz, prime minister since predecessor Donald Tusk headed to Brussels last autumn, is concerned an October victory is no given after Mr Komorowski slid more than 30 points in opinion polls in just three months.

The 62-year-old Mr Komorowski has pitched himself to voters as the safe and experienced pair of hands in uncertain times with neighbouring Russia. But election analysts have criticised his campaign as lacklustre and distant, refusing media interviews and declining to participate in a television debate. The president has said he will duel his opponent in the case of a run-off.

That is now almost a certainty as is his main challenger: Mr Duda, an MEP 20 years the president’s junior. He ran an energetic campaign with an economic focus, giving him a bounce in polls.

The PiS candidate has promised new business levies, attacked the government for increasing the retirement age to 67 and revived long-held Polish fears that adopting the euro will drive up prices.

That put Mr Komorowski and the PO on the back foot. After initial enthusiasm, the ruling party had already adopted a go-slow policy on the single currency but Mr Komorowski has now said Poland may have to hold a referendum on swapping the zloty for the euro.

At times the campaign looked like a dress rehearsal for October’s parliamentary poll, with a second round likely to increase the pressure on Mr Komorowski and his PO allies.

The Polish president is more powerful than many European counterparts: head of the armed forces, with a say in foreign policy and powers to to initiate legislation.

About 13 per cent of voters unimpressed by the main candidates have rallied behind Pawel Kukiz, an ageing rocker with an anti-establishment message. He has vowed to shake up the electoral system and has called migration of Poles to Ireland “extermination over time”.

The Democratic Left’s candidate, 36-year-old soap-opera actor Magdalena Ogórek, has just 3 per cent support.