Tue, Sep 27, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Polish government heads for defeat in exit polling

PARLIAMENTARY POLLSA new government may be on hold, since the likely prime minister wants to wait and see if his twin wins the presidential vote

AP , WARSAW

Exit polls and early returns indicated Polish voters ousted the nation's scandal-prone government of ex-communists in parliamentary elections on Sunday, giving a broad majority to two center-right parties that have promised tax cuts and clean government.

Sunday's election appears certain to return to power supporters of the Solidarity trade union movement that toppled communism in 1989-1990, and early returns indicated a dramatic defeat for the government of Prime Minister Marek Belka.

The state electoral commission said yesterday that with 60 percent of votes counted, the conservative Law and Justice Party had 26.56 percent of the vote, while the free-market Civic Platform had 24.08 percent.

The two parties have said they would form a government together, and the early results indicated they would control 274 seats in parliament's 460-member lower house.

The third largest force is the radical farmer Self-Defense Party, with 12.44 percent of votes. The turnout was 39.25 percent. Exit polls indicated a similar outcome.

Vote tallies were likely to change somewhat, as Warsaw, with some 1.5 million residents, was lagging behind in the vote count, the head of the commission, Ferdynand Rymarz, said.

But just as in Germany's election a week ago, it appears Polish voters also sought to forestall drastic cuts to welfare benefits by giving stronger backing to Law and Justice, a party that blends the idea of free markets with concern for social equality. It also opposes Platform's calls for a flat income tax of 15 percent.

The turnout of around 40 percent, the lowest for a parliamentary election in post-communist Poland, was widely seen as another indicator of voter dismay.

Voters were clearly disenchanted with the former communists of the Democratic Left Alliance government after a series of scandals, and with unemployment at 17.8 percent despite strong growth.

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