Poland Runoff Looms as Ex-Rock Star Make Inroads in Polls

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, who only two months ago held a commanding lead in the polls, faces a growing risk of a runoff as a rock-star rival picks up support, voter surveys suggest.

Backing for Komorowski fell 3 percentage points to 42 percent in an April 28 phone poll by Millward Brown for TVN24 television, below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff after the first round of balloting on May 10. The president’s main challenger, Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice party, also dropped by 1 percentage point to 27 percent. Benefiting is musician Pawel Kukiz, whose popularity tripled to 9 percent after his campaign, which has raised $107,000, ran its first TV spot last week.

Since his campaign started in March, support for the incumbent president, endorsed by the ruling Civic Platform party, has shriveled as much as 15 percentage points in some polls. Every survey published this month points to Komorowski, 64, falling short of a first-round victory.

The president’s slippage shows his campaign stressing “consensus and security” has failed to inspire most voters. Komorowski is trying to capitalize on a quarter-century of uninterrupted growth in economic output and an unprecedented rise in living standards as Poland became the European Union’s only economy to avoid a recession after 2008.

‘Serious Player’

While Duda’s campaign continues 10 years of antagonism between the ruling party and Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice, Kukiz, 51, appeals to voters fed up with the gridlock. He’s promising national unity by introducing single-member constituencies to break up the existing party system.

Even though Kukiz has no chance to win the presidency, a good showing on May 10 positions him to be “a serious player” in the parliamentary elections this fall, according to Anna Sosnowska-Materska, a political scientist at Warsaw University.

“Kukiz’s growing popularity is a protest vote against Poland’s political model dominated by two feuding parties,” Sosnowska-Materska said by phone Thursday. “It seems a third force is emerging, like Podemos in Spain and Beppe Grillo in Italy.”

Komorowski would win 55 percent of the votes in a possible May 24 runoff against Duda, Tuesday’s poll by Millward Brown shows. Poland’s general elections this fall will be held at the end of September at the earliest.

Civic Platform’s lead over Law and Justice has begun to narrow as support for its presidential candidate erodes. The ruling party dropped 6 percentage points to 36 percent in an April 16-22 poll of 1,027 adults by Warsaw-based researcher CBOS, while Law & Justice rose 1 point to 30 percent.

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