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President Komorowski

Added on July 4, 2010 at 20:57 Berlin time
Jaroslaw Kaczynski has already conceded defeat.

Article added on July 4, 2010 at 20:22 Berlin time
The second round of the Polish presidential election was a showdown between two former anti-communist activists: Jaroslaw Kaczynski (*1949) and Bronislaw Komorowski (*1952). It was a contest between a not so glorious nationalist-conservative past and a more open liberal-conservative present and future.

Some 30.5 million of Poland's 38 million citizens are registered voters. On July 4 at 20:00, exit polls see Komorowski as the winner. TVP state television exit polls gave Komorowski a 53% to 47% victory over Kaczynski. TVN private TV gave Komorowski a 51.1% to 48.9% lead.

If the exit polls will be confirmed by the final result, Poland will have rightly decided that the parliament speaker and acting president was the better choice. President Komorowski will help Donald Tusk - prime minister since November 2007 - implement the needed economic reforms. Tusk managed to bring Poland through the world economic downturn without falling into a recession. Poland's 1.7% were the only positive growth rate within the entire EU in 2009.

After the tragic death of President Lech Kaczynski - together with some 90 people of the Polish elite - in a plan crash on April 10, an early presidential election became necessary. In the first round of voting on June 20, no candidate won the needed absolute majority.

Bronislaw Komorowski is a former political prisoner who worked closely together with the first prime minister of the free Poland after the fall of Communism, Tadeusz Mozowiecki. Komorowski is a man with noble ancestors among whom one can find the Primate of Poland's Catholic Church, Adam Ignacy Komorowski. Bronislaw Komorowski is a member of the Civic Platform of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. In the first round of the 2010 presidential election, he came in first with 41.5% of the vote, topping the 36.5% of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a member of the nationalist-conservative Law & Justice Party, who could count on a wave of solidarity after the loss of his identical twin brother, which made the election closer than expected under normal circumstances. Because of Kaczynski's death, Komorowski could not harshly attack his opponent without looking impious.

As head of state, t
he Polish president does not only have representative duties. He has also real political power. He selects the prime minister. He can dissolve the parliament in certain cases. He has the right to initiate the legislative work and he can veto laws, which can only be overruled by a 60% majority (with at least 50% of the members of parliament present in the Sejm). As the supreme commanded of the armed forces, he has an influence on Poland's military, e.g. regarding the countries forces in Afghanistan. In wartime, he nominates the commander-in-chef and can order a general mobilization.



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According to the European Commission, the Polish public budget was at -7.1% in 2009 and may rise to -7.3% in 2010. The unemployment rate was at 8.2% in 2009 and may rise to 9.2% in 2010. But the outlook is not as bleak as in other countries. Poland's fundamentals are considered sound, even in the financial sector. The general government gross debt as a percentage of GDP was at 51% in 2009 and may rise to 53.9% in 2010. Poland's economic situation is bad but not desperate. As mentioned above, the growth rate was 1.7.% in 2009 and is predicted to rise to 2.7% in 2010. However, reducing the budget is a prime target of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. With a president from his Civic Platform party, to achieve this goal will be easier.

The late President Lech Kaczynski was seen as an obstacle to the modernization of the Polish economy. His twin brother would probably have continued his brother's anti-reform approach, e.g. standing up against further economic liberalization and for more subsidies for Polish farmers.

Incidentally, Jaroslaw Kaczynski was once a close collaborator of the anti-communist union leader Lech Walesa with whom he later fell out because Walesa did not fight the Communists as hard as he had wanted (and allegedly also because Walesa made salacious jokes about Jaroslaw the bachelor).

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, currently not a member of the government, but the opposition leader, was received by David Cameron just a few days before the second round of the 2010 election. For Kaczynski, this was a propaganda coup. For
David Cameron a strange lack of political judgment.

As pointed out in 2007, after their electoral win in 2005, the Kaczynski twins wanted to achieve a “moral revolution” with an improbable coalition of their Law and Justice Party with the populist right-wing League of Polish Families and the agrarian-populist Self-Defense Party. To try to eliminate the “corrupt network of ex-communists” with such allies was a bad joke. The twins themselves were involved in a “fight” against Communists, Germans, Russians, liberals and homosexuals. At least some of their political allies were anti-Semites.

The Kaczynskis and their Law and Justice party traditionally got a lot of support in rural eastern Poland where farmers and conservative views dominate, where the unemployment rate is higher than the Polish average and where the older voters dominate because the younger people move to the more dynamic parts of Poland.

After the tragic death of his twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski had presented himself as a “new” man, a politician who has changed. He turned down his rhetoric. Luckily, the Polish voters did not believe these fairytales. Maybe they remembered his unlucky and incompetent run of government in 2006 and 2007. They may also have watched the 2010 televised presidential debates which, according to the polls, Komorowski managed to win against Kaczynski.

Now it is up to President Komorowski and his Prime Minister Donald Tusk to prove that they can work closely together as promised to implement the market reforms needed, to keep the Catholic church separated from the state and to adopt the euro within five years, although that may not be so desirable, depending on how Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and all the other euro-zone countries will perform. This means of course that the Polish public debt has to be kept below 65% of GDP and the deficit has to be reduced under 3% of GDP to comply with the Maastricht criteria. Last but not least, Komorowski pledged to end Poland's military mission in Afghanistan in 2012. This may turn out to be wise, hasty or defeatist, according to what President Obama and his general Petraeus manage to achieve until then.

Sheet music by Frederic Chopin.








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