Poland votes for new president

Poles were today voting in a presidential run-off election which pits the identical twin brother of the last head of state, who was killed in a plane crash, against the acting president.

Both Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Bronislaw Komorowski are former anti-communist activists with conservative, Catholic upbringings, yet they differ sharply on key issues.

The outcome of the election is expected to have a significant influence on whether the country pushes through more market reforms or preserves significant welfare benefits.

An election was originally set for autumn but had to be called early to replace President Lech Kaczynski, who died on April 10 in a plane crash in western Russia. The crash also killed his wife Maria and 94 others, including many high-ranking military and government officials.

The first round of voting on June 20 ended with no candidate winning an absolute majority, leading to today‘s run-off between Komorowski, the acting president and parliament speaker, and Kaczynski, the identical twin brother of Lech.

More than 30 million of Poland’s 38 million citizens are registered to vote. The first exit polls will be released immediately after polls close at 8pm local time (6pm Irish Time) tonight, but official results are not expected until tomorrow.

For most of the campaign, Komorowski, a moderate in the governing pro-EU Civic Platform party, has been favoured, largely because he is seen as a reliable choice and because his government steered Poland through the global economic downturn without falling into recession.

But a survey published on Friday showed a rise in support for Kaczynski, whose traditional conservative voter base has been reinforced by sympathy votes following his brother’s death and the toning down of his image.

In the first round, in which 10 candidates competed, Komorowski got 41.5 % of the votes and Kaczynski 36.5 %.

Poland’s president has many ceremonial duties, but he can also veto laws, and as commander in chief has influence on foreign military operations.

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