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Komorowski presidency on the line as Poland votes

Poland is voting in the first round of elections for a new president after a somewhat lackluster campaign. Incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to win, but he could face a tough challenge.

Komorowski, who was elected to the presidency in 2010, appears unlikely to win by a sufficient margin to avoid a second run-off.

The 62-year-old president, who is close to the governing centrist Civic Platform (PO) party, has focused much of his campaign on heightened security challenges amid tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.

However, rivals are hoping to capitalize on a mood for reforms to bring down taxes - and the retirement age.

Conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party candidate Andrzej Duda has promised voters generous social benefits in his impassioned campaign speeches. Duda also enjoys backing for Poland's respected Solidarity trade union and backs the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to in vitro fertilization.

Meanwhile, anti-establishment rock singer Pawel Kukiz - hoping to capitalize on a disillusioned younger electorate - is being tipped as a possibility to land up in third spot, with as much as 15 percent support. Until two years ago, Kukiz was the frontman of the band Piersi ("The Breasts").

'Aggression' poses challenge

For incumbent Komorowski - a former defense minister - the potential threat posed by a

resurgent Russia

is of key significance.

"It's been a long time since an armed conflict has been as close to Polish borders as the one today," he warned, hinting at Russia's "aggression" against Ukraine.

Presidential powers are limited to initiating and vetoing legislation and steering defence and foreign policy in Poland, an EU and NATO member of 38 million people that has grown into central Europe's political and economic heavyweight since it shed communism in 1989.

Komorowski won office in 2010 after his predecessor, Lech Kaczynski,

died in a plane crash in Russia

.

Poland is also gearing up for a parliamentary election this fall with early opinion polls pegging the PO narrowly ahead of the PiS.

rc/jr (AFP, AP)

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