- Associated Press - Sunday, June 20, 2010

WARSAW (AP) — Exit polls on Sunday showed interim President and Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski leading former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland’s presidential election, but without the 50 percent needed for outright victory.

If the exit polls are confirmed by official results, a runoff vote will have to be held between Mr. Komorowski and Mr. Kaczynski on July 4.

An exit poll by Millward Brown SMG/KRC showed Mr. Komorowski with 45.7 percent of the vote and Mr. Kaczynski with 33.2 percent.

A second poll, by OBOP, showed 40.7 percent for Mr. Komorowski and 35.8 percent for Mr. Kaczynski, the identical twin of the late President Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who was killed in the crash of a Polish government plane in Russia in April.

The outcome is expected to shape the European Union member’s stance on issues such as the adoption of the euro, welfare reform and Poland’s mission in Afghanistan.

Poland is the only European Union country to have avoided recession during the global economic downturn. The election will also determine how it fares amid the new debt crisis.

Voting took place in regions along the Vistula and Oder rivers that were damaged by heavy flooding in May and earlier this month. Free transport was offered to carry voters to polling stations arranged outside the affected zones.

The front-runner, Mr. Komorowski, is a pro-EU, moderate member of the governing Civic Platform party. He has pledged to work closely with the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk to adopt the euro in about five years, end the unpopular military mission in Afghanistan and promote pro-market reforms.

Mr. Kaczynski is a social conservative whose main goals are to fight crime and corruption, scale back market reforms in order to preserve a strong welfare state and promote Roman Catholic values in public life. He is more skeptical about the European Union and adoption of the euro, saying it’s too early to set a timetable for giving up the Polish currency, the zloty.

Mr. Kaczynski is known for his nationalism and his combative tone. But he has struck a more moderate tone since his brother’s death. Many Poles are unsure of whether the change is permanent or a strategy to win over middle-of-the-road voters.

Opinions were split early Sunday among voters in southern Warsaw. Mr. Komorowski’s supporters stressed his calm and ties to the government. Backers of Mr. Kaczynski called him trustworthy and said he truly cares for Poland’s interests.

Jan Rostafinski, a 62-year-old lawyer, said he voted for Mr. Komorowski, whom he knows personally.

“He is the best among the candidates: He has rich experience, moderate views and a sense of humor, which the predecessor was lacking, or at least so it seemed. Komorowski will represent Poland well,” Mr. Rostafinski said.

Iwona Chamera, a 39-year-old doctor, and her husband, Ryszard, also voted for Mr. Komorowski because “he will support the government. He is the only one among the candidates that guarantees us peace on the political stage. We need that very badly.”

But another doctor, Ewa Stawinska, 54, said she would vote for Mr. Kaczynski because she thought it was better for the president and the prime minister to be from different parties. She liked the fact that he stands for Catholic values in public life and believed he would push for a thorough investigation of the plane crash that Poles call the “Smolensk tragedy.”

Lech Kaczynski and his wife were among 96 people killed when their plane crashed while trying to land in heavy fog in Smolensk, Russia, on April 10. The delegation included many high-ranking civilian and military leaders, and the loss of so many high-ranking people provoked deep grief across the nation. Many officials have called it the worst tragedy to strike the country since World War II.

More than 30 million of Poland’s 38 million citizens were registered to vote in nearly 26,000 polling stations across this eastern European country. Voting took place from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time (midnight to 2 p.m. EDT). The first exit polls were released when the polls closed, and official results will come in later in the evening.

One opinion poll published Friday by the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper showed Mr. Komorowski had the support of 42 percent of those surveyed, to Mr. Kaczynski’s 31 percent. The poll, by the GfK Polonia institute, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

If no candidate reaches 50 percent, the two top contenders will compete in a runoff July 4.



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