Jan Cienski in Warsaw -
Poland’s presidential elections will take place on May 10, Radek Sikorski, the country’s parliamentary speaker, decreed on Wednesday, causing an immediate outcry from opposition parties who complained that the date favours incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski.
The ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance, whose candidate, the untried Magdalena Ogorek, is polling in the single digits, grumbled that Komorowski will get an edge because of the glare of publicity from presiding over Poland’s May 3 constitution day. Komorowski is also inviting world leaders to Gdansk on May 8 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, an event that competes with an event in Moscow a day later.
The right-wing Law and Justice party, the largest opposition force, was also upset. “I seems that the date was set in accordance with Bronislaw Komorowski’s calendar,” Mariusz Blaszczak, a senior party leader, told Poland’s TVN24 television. “The goal is to give the sitting president a better chance at a good outcome.”
The problem for the opposition is that Komorowski does not need much of a helping hand. Opinion polls shows Komorowski far ahead of his rivals, with some surveys indicating that he could get the 50% of votes needed to win in the first round. If no candidate wins an outright majority on May 10, a second round takes place on May 24.
Komorowski, 62, who hails from the same centrist Civic Platform party as Sikorski and Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, is an avuncular former anti-communist activist with aristocratic roots. His homespun humour and low-key approach to Poland's often fevered politics has made him enormously popular. A new poll by the Adriana organisation finds Komorowski is in a different league than any of his rivals when it comes to how voters assess his likeability, trustworthiness, patriotism, being trusted with the perilous issue of war in Ukraine, competence and a host of other characteristics.
With Donald Tusk’s recent departure for Brussels, where he is now the President of the European Council, Komorowski has become the country’s dominant politician. His edge is so overwhelming that the opposition has decided to choose little-known candidates to run against him, instead of setting up party leaders for an almost-certain defeat.
That is why Ogorek, who has a remarkably thin resume but is so attractive that she has become an international talking point, is her party’s candidate instead of the grizzled 68-year-old leader, Leszek Miller.
Law and Justice also decided against running the party’s founder and leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, 65, and instead chose the relatively unknown Andrzej Duda, who happens to share a last name (if not a blood relationship) with the much better known Piotr Duda, the charismatic leader of the Solidarity labour union who has become one of Kopacz’s leading foes. Andrzej Duda, 42, has the support of less than a fifth of voters in most polls.
Both Miller and Kaczynski have touted their party’s presidential candidates as a chance for a new generation of politicians to take a stab at the country’s top job. But the overwhelming likelihood is that Komorowski will again be elected Poland’s president for a second and final five-year term.
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