Poland Prepares for a Run-Off Vote

By Hilary Heuler

Poland's first round of presidential elections on Sunday resulted in the center-right candidate Bronislaw Komorowski beating the far-right's Jaroslaw Kaczynski by a slim margin.

The results of Poland's presidential election Sunday put center-right candidate Bronislaw Komorowski in the lead, with around 41 percent of the vote. But the race was closer than most people had expected, with the far-right candidate Jaroslaw Kaczynski pulling in nearly 37 percent of the vote.

Since neither candidate won 50 percent, Komorowski and Kaczynski will be going head-to-head in a run-off vote July 4th.

Poland's presidential elections were held early after a plane crash on April 10th, in which the country's president, Lech Kaczynski, was killed along with a number of other Polish dignitaries. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of the late president, has taken his brother's place as candidate for the far-right Law and Justice party.

Kaczynski has enjoyed a surge of popular support in the months following the plane crash. But both Kaczynski and his brother have a history of turbulent relations with Germany and Russia, as well as with the European Union.

> Map Of Poland
Jacek Kucharczyk of the Warsaw-based Institute of Public Affairs says that a win for Kaczynski could affect Poland's relations with the rest of Europe. "Kaczynski is quite well known in the EU as a "eurosceptic", as his brother was, and his party is also outside of the mainstream of European political parties," he explained. "So I think that would be very much detrimental to Polish position in the EU. And this process of improving bilateral relations between Poland and Germany, and especially Poland and Russia, would be put in jeopardy by this victory."

Kucharczyk says that Komorowski, running for the center-right Civic Platform party, aims to tie the country more closely to the EU, as well as to push forward a number of business-friendly domestic reforms.

"Komorowski's aim is to consolidate Civic Platform's ability to implement its own modernization agenda. Komorowski's main idea is that his presence in the presidential palace will provide an umbrella for this reform program, which means both domestic reforms, but also to further Polish presence within the EU," Kucharczyk said. "The main foreign policy objective of this government is to put Poland very strongly in the heart of EU policies and increase Polish presence and influence on EU policy making."

In a speech last night, Kaczynski told supporters that they faced a choice between two visions of the country's future. Both candidates are expected to intensify their campaigns over the next two weeks.