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Komorowski Wins Presidential Election, Ending Poland's Uncertainty

Bronislaw Komorowski (right) waves to supporters with his wife Anna after exit polls for the early presidential election in Warsaw on July 4.
Poland's caretaker president, Bronislaw Komorowski, has pledged to unite the country's fractured political landscape after apparently winning a presidential runoff triggered by the death of his predecessor.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, preliminary results issued by the country's state election commission showed Komorowski winning 52.63 percent of the vote in the July 4 poll compared with 47.37 percent for his rival, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The final result was expected to be confirmed later today.

But with Kaczynski conceding late on Sunday evening, Komorowski's victory appeared all but assured. The runoff was held after neither candidate obtained more than 50 percent of the vote in a first round held last month.

The result, if confirmed, ends a period of uncertainty for Poland triggered by the death in April of the previous president, Lech Kaczynski -- twin brother of the defeated candidate -- in a plane crash in Russia. Kaczynski's death propelled Komorowski, the speaker of Poland's parliament -- to the presidency on a caretaker basis. It also brought forward a presidential poll that had been due later this year.

Komorowski's governing Civic Platform party has long been at loggerheads with the Euroskeptic Law and Justice party, run by the Kaczynskis. Lech Kaczynski used his presidential veto 18 times to block legislation introduced by the liberal Civic Platform government led by Komorowski's close ally, Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

End To Gridlock

But Komorowski vowed to put political differences aside in an effort to heal Poland's divisions.

"Divisions are an inseparable part of democracy. But we have work to do to ensure these divisions don't prevent cooperation," he said late on July 4.

Lech Kaczynski beat Tusk in a 2005 presidential race marked by bitter mudslinging. He had been expected to seek a second five-year term in an election later this year, but had trailed Komorowski in opinion polls.

Instead, Jaroslaw Kaczynski sought to step into his twin's shoes but struggled to shake off his divisive, confrontational reputation and failed to build on an outpouring of public sympathy over April's catastrophic plane crash, which also resulted in the deaths of several other leading political and military figures.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski was his brother's prime minister in 2006-07 but lost a general election to Tusk's Civic Platform. That prompted a period of political gridlock in which the president used his veto powers to block much of the governing party's program.

With an eye on core conservatives -- older, small-town or rural dwellers, in contrast with younger, urban liberals -- the Kaczynskis resisted welfare reforms and a new privatization drive.

Analysts say the Tusk government faces a test now that it holds all the levers of state.

The liberals have underscored that Poland was alone in the 27-member European Union in posting economic growth last year but say more needs to be done to plug holes in the state coffers.

Sunday's vote was watched closely elsewhere in the European Union, which ex-communist Poland joined in 2004, because the Kaczynskis regularly clashed with other leaders. Poland takes over the bloc's rotating presidency in the second half of next year.

with agency reports
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