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Komorowski wins Polish presidential election

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  • Greg Cannon
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    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2010
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      Komorowski wins Polish presidential election
      Reuters
      Gabriela Baczynska And Pawel Sobczak – 31 mins ago

      WARSAW (Reuters) – Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Poland's ruling pro-business Civic Platform (PO), won Sunday's presidential election run-off, exit polls showed, in an outcome that will be applauded by investors.

      TVP state television's exit poll gave Komorowski, who was previously acting president, 53 percent of the vote against 47 percent for his rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the right-wing main opposition party Law and Justice (PiS).

      Kaczynski quickly conceded defeat.

      Financial markets will welcome the result because Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk are close allies from the same party, and the new president is expected to work smoothly with the market-oriented government.

      The European Union's largest ex-communist member state is the only economy in the 27-strong bloc to have avoided recession last year, but Poland needs to tame a large budget deficit and growing public debt without derailing a fragile recovery.

      "Today democracy has won, our Polish democracy," Komorowski said in a victory speech to jubilant supporters that stressed the need for dialogue and cooperation.

      "It is important not to foment divisions but to build a sense of unity."

      Investors had feared a Kaczynski win because of his opposition to spending cuts and privatization and the likelihood of increased conflict between government and president.

      MORE ELECTIONS LOOM

      "The victory of Komorowski can be seen as a factor supporting fiscal reforms because he's from the ruling party. So we can imagine the market reaction will be positive," said Maciej Reluga, chief economist at Bank Zachodni WBK.

      "However, we must remember that we still face regional and parliamentary elections (this autumn and in 2011 respectively), so we cannot expect unpopular decisions (from the government)."

      In Poland, the government led by the prime minister sets policy, but the president can propose and veto laws, appoints many key officials and has a say in foreign and security policy.

      Kaczynski's twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, vetoed several government bills before his tragic death in a plane crash in Russia on April 10.

      Traders said they expected the zloty and bonds to firm modestly on Monday.

      Kaczynski conceded defeat in a speech to his supporters but said the result provided a strong springboard for next year's elections.

      Sunday's result will also be welcomed in other EU capitals and in Russia because Komorowski backs the Tusk government's initiatives to improve foreign relations that came under strain during Kaczynski's short stint as prime minister in 2006-7.

      Turnout was relatively high at 56.2 percent, up from 54 percent in the first round, despite initial fears that hot summer weather might keep many Poles from voting.

      Sunday's result was also an impressive one for Kaczynski, who before his brother's death had the highest negative ratings of any Polish politician and whose Law and Justice trailed well behind PO in opinion polls.

      Kaczynski has ridden a wave of public sympathy for his bereavement and also conducted a shrewd campaign in which he largely ditched his past acerbic nationalist rhetoric in a push to win over middle-of-the-road voters.

      Kaczynski's 47 percent now puts him and his party in a stronger position ahead of next year's parliamentary election and may make it harder for Tusk's government to risk potentially unpopular fiscal reforms.

      "It is a paradox that the election has a winner but no loser. Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Law and Justice a few months back could only have dreamt of winning such support," said Jacek Wasilewski of Warsaw's Higher School of Social Psychology.

      Kaczynski's blend of Catholic piety, opposition to some free market reforms and distrust of big business, EU bureaucrats and Poland's historic foe Russia strike a deep chord, especially among older, poorer and provincial voters.

      First partial official results are expected later on Sunday and final results may be ready by late Monday.

      (Writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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