Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, seeking to revive his re-election bid, vowed to improve a lackluster campaign and attacked his rival for “cynical manipulation” 10 days before a runoff ballot.
The incumbent is running out of time to arrest his plummeting support and turn around a race that’s become a referendum on the Civic Platform government’s eight-year rule. Komorowski surprisingly lost the first round of voting on Sunday to Andrzej Duda, a man 20 years younger who has led an energetic campaign across Poland and tapped into public discontent over job prospects despite strong economic growth.
“A lot needs to change,” Komorowski said about his campaign in an interview with RMF FM radio on Thursday. “You need to take into account that a lot of people, despite the clear successes that Poland has had, don’t feel like they are participating fully in those successes and are disappointed at the pace of change.”
In a bid to become more “active,” Komorowski has engaged with Poles during walkabouts in Warsaw this week, a tactic Duda’s camp said exposed the 62-year-old president as aloof and out of touch. The Internet is abuzz with clips of the outings, where he relies on an aide for help when confronted with tough questions and faces criticism from passers-by.
Komorowski’s campaign manager accused Duda’s Law and Justice on Thursday of sending party faithful to disrupt the meetings. One person who approached Komorowski, identifying himself as a student who was thinking of leaving for Norway in search of work, turned out to be a candidate from the opposition party in local administration elections last November.
“We just want to appeal to Law and Justice -- don’t engage in this cynical manipulation,” Robert Tyszkiewicz, Komorowski’s campaign manager, told reporters. “Let’s play fair.”
Duda’s chief of staff, Beata Szydlo, said in response that everyone had a right to take part in campaign events.
The opposition candidate won Sunday’s first round with 35 percent, while Komorowski garnered 34 percent, compared with the more than 60 percent he polled three months ago.
A potential defeat would deal a blow to Komorowski’s allies in Civic Platform, who opinion polls show are running neck-and-neck with Law and Justice party before a general election due by November. The opposition is vowing to cut the retirement age, tax banks and foreign retailers, and push through other measures if it takes power.
The president pleaded with voters to support him during a rally in Lodz, central Poland, on Thursday as he presented his new campaign slogan: “Komorowski -- the President of Freedom.”
“The first round was an important message from the electorate -- it shook me up, I thought about it and I understood it,” he told supporters after a traffic jam delayed his arrival to the meeting. “You need to understand that in this election, we’re facing a choice between those who are afraid of freedom and those who want the freedom to thrive.”