Poland’s main opposition party celebrated its first national election win in a decade yesterday, after its candidate for the presidency unexpectedly defeated Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in a result that unnerved financial markets.
Polish president-elect Andrzej Duda won Sunday’s vote by 52 percent to 48 percent, an exit poll showed. His Law and Justice party is close to the Catholic Church, socially conservative and considered less business-friendly and less pro-EU than the governing Civic Platform.
Reacting to the result, Polish assets fell across the board, reflecting in part plans outlined by Duda to convert Swiss-franc denominated mortgages into zlotys at historical exchange rates.
Financial regulator KNF estimates the plan, which the head of the central bank has rejected, would cost Polish banks up to 25 billion zlotys (US$6.7 billion).
In Poland, the president nominates the head of the central bank, as well as heading the armed forces and having a say in foreign policy and the passage of legislation.
Duda began the day after the election with passersby in front of a subway station in central Warsaw, announcing that he would formally leave his Law and Justice party.
Duda’s moves yesterday morning come as the 43-year-old seeks to send a message of national unity after a campaign that revealed deep divisions in the country. It is a tradition for Polish presidents to leave their parties to show that they represent everyone.
Parliamentary elections are due in late October, and the defeat for Komorowski, an ally of Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and a former Civic Platform lawmaker, are to weigh on the party’s chance of re-election.
Latest opinion polls give the alliance led by Law and Justice a marginal lead over Civic Platform, and Law and Justice parliamentary caucus head Mariusz Blaszczak said on public radio he expected party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski to be the next prime minister.
Sunday’s vote also reflected a desire among voters for new faces, and a sense that the fruits of Poland’s economic upturn have not been shared equally.
Official election results have yet to be released, but Komorowski conceded defeat late on Sunday.
Duda, who is to be sworn in on Aug. 6, has yet to spell out his ambitions, although chances that he will try to force through legislative changes during the current parliament appear slim.
“He realises that he will have to cooperate with the government, but this is a president who listens to all Poles. He will not sign bills that are directed against them,” Law and Justice deputy head Beata Szydlo said of Duda’s plans in office.
In its eight years in power, Civic Platform has dominated Poland’s political landscape and presided over rapid economic growth and rising salaries in eastern Europe’s biggest economy.
The head of the party’s parliamentary caucus, Rafal Grupinski, said he feared Duda’s win would mean “potential state modernization moves” would be blocked for the next five years.
“There are very difficult five years ahead of us, and we need to tell the voters as much,” Grupinski told reporters on Sunday.
However, many Poles, sensing the vaunted “economic miracle” has passed them by, felt more inclined on Sunday to vote for change.
“Economic growth? For the average citizen it is hardly perceptible,” said Zbigniew Pela, 53, a railway worker who voted for Duda. “They create good living conditions for some social groups who have their businesses, and not for ordinary citizens.”
Additional reporting by AP
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