Polish Presidential Election Is Open Race After First Round, Pollster Says

Poland’s acting President Bronislaw Komorowski can’t rely on winning the July 4 second round vote after his party garnered a narrower victory than polls had indicated in the first round, said Andrzej Olszewski of pollster TNS OBOP.

“We’re back at the starting line,” said Olszewski, who heads the research company that last night published the most accurate exit polls, compared with the State Election Committee’s official results.

Komorowski, the candidate of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform, got 41.2 percent in the June 20 vote, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski won 36.7 percent, with 94 percent of voting districts reporting. That’s a closer margin than an exit poll by MillwardBrown SMG/KRC for TVN television, which showed Komorowski ahead 45.7 percent to 33.2 percent. Kaczynski is representing the Law and Justice Party of his twin brother and former president Lech, who died in an April 10 plane crash.

“Komorowski’s lead of only about 5 percentage points in yesterday’s vote reflects the weakness of Civic Platform’s candidate and shows how serious the challenge is now,” Olszewski said in a phone interview out of Warsaw today. “Civic Platform is in a very difficult situation; its concept fell apart and the new arguments in favor of Komorowski have to be presented right away.”

Komorowski’s lead over his main rival in the presidential election has waned from almost 24 percentage points at the end of April, based on an average outcome of six polls that month. Tusk in 2005 lost a runoff in his presidential bid against Lech Kaczynski after leading the first round by 3 percentage points. Kaczynski won by 8 percentage points in the final ballot.

‘Glow of Victory’

“Law and Justice is going into the second round in the glow of victory and can feel the wind in its sails, which will definitely result in good ideas for the campaign,” Olszewski said. “Meanwhile, Civic Platform is in a panic, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to come up with a new campaign that cannot be allowed to fail.”

Komorowski’s Civic Platform focused its campaign on Kaczynski, casting him as a stereotype hostile toward the European Union and the free-market transition that Poland has undergone since abandoning communism two decades ago, Olszewski said.

A Komorowski victory in the July 4 runoff would give Civic Platform control of the presidency and cabinet, ending divisions that arose under the presidency of Lech Kaczynski. 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. A Kaczynski win would risk putting the office of the president at loggerheads with the government.

Opposing Views

Kaczynski is opposed to Tusk’s goal of setting a date for euro adoption and his party last year sought higher state expenditure to ease the impact of the global crisis. Tusk’s Civic Platform has argued in favor of budget cuts to comply with European Union rules.

OBOP will also conduct exit polls after the July 4 vote, asking about 50,000 voters at 500 voting stations, Olszewski said. Exit polls published by MillwardBrown SMG/KRC for TVN television were conducted by telephone.

“A positive aspect to having such a huge difference between one reliable poll and the other polls is that people will eventually free themselves from the dictatorship of the other poll’s results,” said Slawomir Sowinski, a political scientist at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. “This means Poles no longer look at who’s the polls’ favorite, which is another piece of bad news for Komorowski.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dorota Bartyzel in Warsaw at dbartyzel@bloomberg.net;

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