Poles are heading to the polls in a presidential runoff that's too close to predict. Incumbent centrist Bronislaw Komorowski is trying to fend off the populist challenge of the right-wing newcomer Andrzej Duda.
Two weeks ago, he was a shoo-in for a second five-year term. Now, 62-year-old Civic Platform (PO) incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski (left in photo) finds himself neck and neck with his challenger, Andrzej Duda (right), the euroskeptic Law and Justice Party (PiS) candidate who defied opinion polls to come out on top in the first round of voting on May 10. Most polls give the right-wing Duda the edge, though one survey says the conservative centrist Komorowski has the advantage.
"Perhaps these years have been good, but only for a narrow group," Duda told supporters in his native Krakow, in southern Poland, on Friday. "Yes, it's time for change, time to end this sluggish, indolent presidency."
Duda, a 43-year-old lawyer and member of the European Parliament, had scored a one-point victory by winning over disillusioned voters with populist promises of generous social spending, an earlier retirement age and lower taxes. In contrast, Komorowski, the head of state since 2010, has campaigned as a seasoned defense specialist who has won support from the Polish-born former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski as well as celebrities.
"The polls suggest it may be thousands of votes that will decide, perhaps even hundreds, whether Poland will drown in arguments, become an embarrassment to the world because of the views of such people," Komorowski said on Friday of Duda and the PiS.
It's not just the presidential race that's tight. After nearly eight years in power, the centrist PO, in which Komorowski once served as minister, also finds itself neck-and-neck in the polls with PiS - led by former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who lost the 2010 presidential election to Komorowski - ahead of the autumn general elections.
The head of state acts as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, heads foreign policy, picks the central bank chief and may to introduce and veto legislation in the country of 38 million people.
mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)