Polish voters may give the government more clout to pursue euro adoption and asset sales by backing the ruling party’s candidate in June 20 presidential elections that follow the death of Lech Kaczynski, the previous head of state.
Bronislaw Komorowski, 58, the candidate for Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform Party, will probably lead after the first round of voting without gaining the majority needed to avoid a runoff in two weeks, according to public opinion polls. Kaczynski’s brother, Jaroslaw, 61, will likely finish second.
“The difference is clear,” said Wojciech Jablonski, a political scientist at Warsaw University. “Poles either pick a man who will represent the government in the presidential palace or they pick Kaczynski, who will continue the policy of his brother -- anti-European Union, anti-Russia and opposition to the government.”
Komorowski, who has been acting president since Lech Kaczynski died in an April 10 plane crash, would end three years of tension between the president and prime minister that have hampered policy making in the EU’s biggest eastern member. His election would let Poland present a unified stance on the euro, and help Tusk make spending cuts needed to bring the deficit within the EU limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product.
The president represents Poland abroad, is head of the army and can veto legislation. His veto can be overturned by a three- fifths majority in parliament.
The country’s debt markets already reflect a Komorowski victory, according to Arkadiusz Bogusz, who manages 1.5 billion zloty ($456.4 million) in fixed-income funds at Credit Suisse Asset Management SA in Warsaw.
“If Kaczynski wins, we have a legislative impasse,” Bogusz said in an interview yesterday. “In the longer term, that may lead to further fiscal deterioration; it may trigger a selloff in one or two quarters.”
Some Kaczynski supporters say Civic Platform will have too much power if Komorowski wins, giving the party control of both the presidency and the prime minister’s office. Kaczynski’s Law & Justice Party has sought to raise pensions for miners, increase the minimum wage and lower taxes for families.
“Poland needs checks and balances in its politics,” said Agata Wolszczak, 36, a mathematics teacher from Warsaw. “Every authority needs to be controlled, and I am confident having a president from another party than the government will be quite healthy for our democracy.”
Coming From Behind
Komorowski was backed by 42 percent of respondents in a June 15-16 poll published today by Warsaw-based researcher GfK Polonia, while Kaczynski was at 31 percent. The survey of 1,000 likely voters had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
All 37 public polls conducted from April 20 to June 17 show Komorowski leading after the first round. The margin separating the top two candidates narrowed to an average of 12 points in the June surveys from 24 points in April. Two polls this month, both by PBS DGA for the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, show Komorowski may win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff.
It may be too early to write off Kaczynski. Tusk lost his 2005 presidential bid after leading by 3 points in the first round. Lech Kaczynski won by 8 points in the runoff.
A Komorowski victory will steer Poland through Europe’s debt crisis without leaving the country fiscally vulnerable, said London-based Peter Attard Montalto, emerging markets economist at Nomura International Plc.
The government ended last year with a deficit equal to 7.1 percent of GDP. That shortfall will widen to 7.3 percent this year, the European Commission said May 5.
Law & Justice Party last year called for an increase in spending to offset the impact of the global economic crisis. Poland is the only EU member to have avoided an economic contraction since the credit crisis started.
The country also struggled to articulate a unified euro policy while Lech Kaczynski was alive. The deceased president opposed setting a date for euro entry and was the last EU leader before Czech President Vaclav Klaus to sign the Lisbon Treaty, intended to streamline EU institutions and lay the foundation for the bloc’s enlargement. Tusk’s government plans to adopt the euro and has said 2015 is a “realistic” date.
“I do hope that Komorowski as the new president will give us a possibility of close cooperation, otherwise we will see what we had seen for the previous 2 1/2 years,” Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski said at a June 16 press conference.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski has urged Poland not to surrender the zloty too quickly. Twenty-five percent of his supporters favor switching to the euro, as opposed to 68 percent of those backing Komorowski’s party, according to an April survey of 1,056 people by Warsaw-based researcher CBOS.
A cooperative head of state may make it easier for Tusk to win elections for the Sejm, Poland’s lower house of parliament, next year. That would allow Poland to continue policy measures including state asset sales. The government has earmarked $10 billion of stakes for sale this year as it uses privatization to boost income.
Komorowski as president will “not only free up Tusk to push forward with privatization more aggressively, but we believe the government will finally have the political breathing space before Sejm elections next year to be able to enact the promised fiscal consolidation,” Montalto said.
Polling stations will open at 6 a.m. Warsaw time June 20 and close at 8 p.m. Exit polls will be announced on local television after voting ends.