- Title: POLAND: Preparations are on before Poles choose president in upcoming elections
- Date: 9th October 2005
- Summary: WIDE OF WOMAN AT STATE ADMINISTRATION CENTRE SORTING BALLOT PAPERS; CLOSE UP OF BALLOT PAPERS; CLOSE UP OF WOMAN SORTING BALLOT PAPERS; WIDE OF WOMAN SORTING VOTING PAPERS (4 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 24th October 2005 13:00
- Location: Poland
- Country: Poland
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAVBWRTT7IEKZ276WF3XT0P7Y3
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: The last preparations were being made in Poland on Saturday (October 8), a day ahead of Sunday's election that pits the pro-business reformer Donald Tusk against an advocate of a conservative "moral revolution" Lech Kaczynski.
Surveys showed neither Tusk nor his tough-talking conservative rival, fifty six-year-old Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski, is likely to win outright, causing a run-off on October 23. Tusk's and Kaczynski's parties trounced the scandal-tainted left in general elections two weeks ago and now hold coalition talks, but they offer contrasting visions of Poland.
Soft-spoken forty-eight-year-old Tusk paints himself and his Civic Platform as a force of modernisation that can unite Poles, mend relations with big neighbours Germany and Russia and anchor the ex-communist nation of 38 million in the European mainstream.
Kaczynski and his Law and Justice party promise a clear break from post-communist Poland, which he says is plagued by corruption and cronyism, under the banner of the "Fourth Republic", "moral renewal" and return to Christian values.
The two are also at odds over the economy -- Tusk pledges greater economic freedoms and less state interference, his rival vows to protect worker rights and boost welfare.
Whoever of the two veterans of the pro-democracy Solidarity movement wins will have considerable powers. The president is commander in chief of the military, has a say over foreign policy, can propose and veto legislation as well as nominate prime ministers and in some circumstances dissolve parliament.
Voting starts at 0400 GMT on Sunday and polls first exit polls will be published when polling stations close at 1800 GMT. Last opinion polls gave Tusk a few point lead and predict he would win by a narrow margin also in the second round. Sociologists say this is because fear of Kaczynski's radicalism may drive centre-left and liberal voters, whose candidate Marek Borowski is set to drop out in the first round, towards Tusk, who has courted them with his moderate message.
Leftist voters may also be swayed because outgoing leftist President Aleksander Kwasniewski signalled he would endorse Tusk in the run-off.
Commentators say Kaczynski has been effective with his portrayal of Tusk as a friend of the rich but critics say his strategy of promises of state help for farmers, workers and students could be seen by many as pork-barrel electioneering.
The conservatives have courted the religious right, not shying away from EU controversy over their support for limiting gay rights and bringing back the death penalty.
The Catholic Church, however, stressed its full political neutrality and distanced itself from popular religious broadcaster Radio Maryja which backs the conservatives and is notorious for nationalistic and xenophobic overtones.
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