Poland votes for new President after crash tragedy

Poles voted for a new head of state after president Lech Kaczynski perished in an air disaster.

Warsaw: Poles voted Sunday for a new head of
state after president Lech Kaczynski perished in an air
disaster, but his twin trailed the ruling party candidate in
an audacious bid to take his brother`s place.

Opinion polls have put parliamentary speaker Bronislaw
Komorowski, 58, of the market-friendly Civic Platform ahead of
ex-premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski, 61, leader of the eurosceptic
conservative Law and Justice party.

Kaczynski cast his ballot in Warsaw accompanied by his
late brother`s daughter and two grandaughters.

"I hope turnout is going to be high," he told reporters.

Elections since the 1989 fall of Poland`s communist regime
have rarely drawn more than half of voters.

"I hope it will rise and that our democracy will be
reinforced," he added. Polls close at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT).

Poland was plunged into national grief by the April 10
plane crash in western Russia that killed Lech Kaczynski and
95 others, including his wife Maria and top political and
military figures. The government delegation was headed for a
memorial ceremony for thousands of Polish officers killed by
Soviet forces during World War II.

The snap election is crucial for the conservatives
because, since losing a parliamentary election in 2007, they
have relied on Kaczynski`s presidential veto powers to hamper
the liberal government`s policies.

On the other hand, victory for Komorowski -- a close ally
of Prime Minister Donald Tusk -- would end a policy logjam and
boost Civic Platform before parliamentary elections in late

On top of the crash tragedy, the campaign has also been
overshadowed by recent floods that killed 24 people and forced
thousands from their homes.

Both candidates have appealed to the 38 million Poles for
national unity.

Voters in Warsaw said that despite the tragic
circumstances the election was like any other.

"I chose Bronislaw Komorowski because of his experience
in parliament and because Mr. Kaczynski did not pass the test
when he served as prime minister -- he already had his
chance," Grazyna Rykowa, 50, told a news agency.

Komorowski could garner 41 to 51 per cent of the vote,
with Kaczynski winning between 29 to 35 per cent, surveys
show. The other eight candidates lag far behind.

If no one scores over 50 per cent, a run-off between the
top two vote-getters will be held on July 4, with opinion
polls giving Komorowski a comfortable win in that contest.


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