04/10/2005 - D-7 - 1st round
Donald Tusk, the Civic Platform candidate (PO), came out ahead in the first round of the presidential election that took place on Sunday 9th October in Poland. He won 35.82% of the vote versus 33.29% for his main adversary, the Law and Justice (PiS) candidate, Lech Kaczynski. As forecast in the polls the lead enjoyed by Donald Tusk over his main rival has melted away over the last few weeks. Whilst the Civic Platform was ahead of the Law and Justice candidate by 16 points on 25th September this lead decreased to two and a half points on the day of the first round. "I am proud of this result and I am proud of Poland. It is a victory. This victory gives hope to millions of Poles in the second round. I am happy that millions of Poles believed that it was worth turning out to vote and that it was worth voting for Donald Tusk. Over the next two weeks the Poles will be looking into who we really are and that will be my chance," declared the Civic Platform candidate when the results were announced. "I am convinced that at the end of this long race we shall win the second round since the vision of a united Poland is for most Poles more attractive than a liberal experiment," maintained Lech Kaczynski, who is far from admitting defeat.
Andrzej Lepper (Autodefence, S) came third winning 15.56% of the vote followed by the leader of the Social Democrat Party (SDPL), Marek Borowski who won 10.19% of the vote. By placing the liberal and conservative candidates first the Poles have therefore confirmed their swing to the right which they committed their country to during the general elections on 25th September.
The participation rate in the first round of the presidential election, 50.5% a relatively low rate, is however higher than that recorded for the general elections in September. The former president of the Republic (1990-1995), Lech Walesa, said that he was furious about "the lack of civic responsibility" on the part of the Poles. "When I fought for democracy I hoped that my fellow countrymen would know how to employ it," he declared. The present President Aleksander Kwasniewski also lamented the low participation rate emphasising that "it was necessary to analyse the sickness of abstentionism and fight against it."
Forty-eight year old Donald Tusk, vice-president of the Diet (Lower Chamber of Parliament) and leader of the Civic Platform is promoting his qualities as negotiator/mediator along with his image of being a modern, dynamic man. He hopes to fight against unemployment by boosting private initiative via the lowering of the taxation rate (establishment of a single tax rate of 15% on VAT, income and company tax) and by reducing the numbers employed in the civil service. Civic Platform said that it did not rule out the extension, under certain conditions, of the Polish presence in Iraq beyond 2005.
The Law and Justice candidate Lech Kaczynski, who is fifty-six years old, stands as an honest, incorruptible man, an image he acquired when he was president of the Auditors' Court, Minister of Justice and Mayor of Warsaw. He is very much attached to Christian values and said on 9th October, "if I am elected my first official journey will be to the Vatican since most of the Poles are Catholic." He is in favour of State intervention in the economy, and of a generous budgetary policy – he is also in favour of a drop in the taxation rates (reduction of tax bands down to two – 18% and 32% instead of the present three -19%, 30% and 40%) that includes tax rebates for large, poor families.
Over the last few weeks Lech Kaczynski has enjoyed the support of Radio Maryja, a Catholic radio station that is listened to a great deal in Poland (around three million listeners). "I am calling on everybody to support Lech Kaczynski who embodies our patriotic values and our fight for change," said the star DJ on the radio Robert Nowak. "The support of Radio Maryja listeners has enabled the rise in popularity of the Kaczynski brothers," says Krzystof Pankowski, sociologist at the research institute CBOS. "Lech Kaczynski is gaining ground by focussing on the electorate in small towns and villages, especially the aged and those who are not so well educated by concentrating on his Catholic faith," says Adam Laszyn, a specialist in political marketing.
The electoral campaign for the presidential election started up again after the general election when to everyone's surprise the PiS came out ahead of the PO. "The Conservatives reacted better than the Liberals to the sudden withdrawal of the social democrat candidate -Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz- in the middle of the electoral battle," analyses political journalist Maciej Letowski. Indeed in an attempt to attract the electorate of Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, during the last days of the campaign Lech Kaczynski abandoned his favourite theme – get rid the "communists" of power and of Polish society - in order to focus more on the dangers of the liberal programme put forward by his adversary. "The Right has never before employed so much Leftwing language. (...) People are still sensitive to the use of national and patriotic symbols and yet at the same time they fear liberalism. (...) Law and Justice became aware of the power of patriotic arguments four years ago. "This has become their trademark, one of the points on which they distinguish themselves from the other political parties," emphasises the president of the Catholic Intelligentsia Club in Warsaw Piotr Cywinski, in Le Monde on 9th Ocotber.
The Civic Platform leader tried to take the debate towards the domain of diplomacy by denouncing the stands adopted by his rival that he qualifies as ‘excessive', warning of the problems they might lead to mainly with Poland's two closest neighbours, Germany and Russia. In a televised debate that brought the two men together on the evening before the election they both said they were in favour of greater firmness on the part of Poland vis à vis Moscow. "We must be firm because Poland is defined as a point of reference in the face of a new consolidation of Russian imperialism," said Lech Kaczynski. During the electoral campaign both candidates were also challenged by the meaning and content of the presidential role which both of them aspire to. Donald Tusk said that he wanted to see presidential powers strengthened whilst Lech Kaczynski, whose slogan is "A President for the Fourth Republic", pointed out that he wanted an in-depth reform of the role of the State – yet he believes it necessary to allow the government a wide margin to manoeuvre. The Law and Justice candidate also promised to modify the Constitution to increase the powers of the President of the Republic.
Paradoxically Donald Tusk and Lech Kaczynski will face each other in the second round on 23rd October next whilst at present their parties are joined in work on the formation of a government. The situation is especially difficult for Jaroslaw Kaczynski, president of the PiS that won the general elections on 25th September and who had to give up the position of Prime Minister in order to give his twin brother Lech every chance in the presidential election. Opinion polls show that the Poles do not want both of the State's main positions to be occupied by both of the brothers. For the time being the formation of a government has been postponed until the results of the presidential election are announced. "I shall present the new government on 24th October at the earliest," said Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, the PiS candidate for Prime Minister. If Donald Tusk wins in the second round of the presidential election the majority of political analysts expect Jaroslaw Kaczynski to take up the post of Prime Minister again which according to a pre-electoral agreement between the PO and the PiS should go to him as leader of the party that won the September general elections.
"Both candidates are going to fight for the electorates of Andrzej Lepper and Marek Borowski. Supporters of the first are closer to Lech Kaczynski and his programme of social solidarity. Supporters of the second will vote for Donald Tusk. Both candidates are in danger of coming out in equal position – it is the tone of the campaign that will decide between them," says Stanislaw Mocek, a political analyst at the Polish Academy of Science.
Results of the First Round of the Presidential Election on 9th October 2005
Participation rate: 50.5%
Source Polish National Electoral Commission