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Europe

Poland Veers to the Right After Election

Vote-counting following the Polish parliamentary election on Sunday confirmed the victory of the two conservative parties fighting in the first national vote since the country joined the EU last year.

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Poland, unlike Germany, voted decisively for a new government

With 60 percent of the votes counted, the victory for the Polish center-right was slightly less impressive than suggested by exit polls on Sunday. The result of the parliamentary elections was, nonetheless, a dramatic call for change and a ticket for reform in the new EU member, which marked the rejection of the legacy of communism once and for all.

The vote count gave the Catholic Law and Justice Party (PiS) 26.56 percent of the vote and, most likely, 151 seats in the 460-seat parliament. The free-market Civic Platform was second with 24.08 percent of the vote, and 123 expected seats.

The two parties have confirmed their intention to form a coalition, which the vote assures a comfortable majority.

Restori n g trust i n the state

Wahlen in Polen Jaroslaw Kaczynski

Leader of Poland's conservative Law and Justice Party Jaroslaw Kaczynski wants to restore trust in the state

"Everything indicates that we have won, but this is only the beginning," said PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who could become Poland's next prime minister.

"We must rebuild many things in Poland. We must restore trust in the state, something which has been highly compromised in recent years," said Kaczynski, whose identical twin Lech is running for president in next month's election.

Finishing third with 67 expected seats was the Samoobrona (Self-Defense) party, a grouping that frequently changes its political leanings, ahead of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), which has been seriously tainted by corruption and was likely to win only 51 seats.

The 11 percent score, although described by leaders of the party as good, was a far cry from the 41 percent of seats the SLD won in 2001.

Wahlen in Polen Plakate

Vote for cha n ge

Pre-election surveys had predicted the SLD would reap at most 8 percent, and at worst not even the five percent required to get into parliament, even though it brought Poland into the EU and has driven the economy on an upward path, while slowly beginning to bring unemployment down.

Wahlen in Polen Wahllokal

The Polish government was voted out after bringing Poland into the EU

The ultra Catholic and nationalist League of Polish Families with a possible 36 seats and the Peasants party with 30 seats were the only other parties with the more than 5 percent of the vote needed to enter parliament.

"Generally speaking, Poles voted for change," said Slawomir Debski, an analyst at Poland's Institute of International Relations. "We cannot cite the German syndrome, where fear of liberalism was a determining factor. The ruling parties, the SLD and their one-time ally, the PSL, were swept aside, while PiS and PO, two groups which made their debut in parliament during the last mandate, won."

The twi n s o n the rise

Wahlen in Polen Jan Rokita

Jan Rokita, leader of Poland's pro-business Civic Platform, which came second in the parliamentary elections

With PiS finishing in the lead, the conservative party should choose who will become Poland's next prime minister, with Jaroslaw Kaczynski their likely choice. PO's premier-designate Jan Rokita (photo) said after casting his vote in the southern city of Krakow that the new head of government should be named as soon as the final results are known.

But that proposal did not sit well with presidential candidate Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw's twin, who fears his chances of beating PO's Donald Tusk could well be torpedoed if someone who looks just like him is appointed prime minister.

Tusk, whom polls show to have a commanding lead in next month's presidential election, conceded defeat to PiS in the parliamentary vote, and vowed to work with together for the good of Poland.

"Now the time has come for us to see what we can do together for Poland," Tusk said. "It's going to be a difficult task."

Eco n omic voes

Grenzpfeiler Polen Deutschland

Poland is largest of the ten new EU member states

PO has proposed an across-the-board 15-percent tax rate, which PiS described last month as a good way to scare off voters.

PiS, meanwhile, campaigned on a socialist manifesto at odds with its traditional conservatism -- calling for state aid and tax breaks for the underprivileged, and government intervention in the economy.

Their different takes on how to tackle Poland's economic woes, notably unemployment, which at 17.8 percent is the highest in the EU, and their pre-election bickering have raised fears that their coalition may be unworkable.

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