Polish left likely to lose out

WARSAW, Poland – Two parties – one pro-business, the other anti-corruption – were favored to oust Poland’s ruling ex-communists in a general election today that could determine how quickly the U.S. ally adopts the euro.

Also, two brothers – identical twins – are competing on the political stage, one leading the Law and Justice party poised for a good result today, the other a leading candidate in presidential elections Oct. 9.

When Poland entered the European Union last year as the bloc’s largest country, it agreed eventually to replace the zloty with the EU common currency. To do that, it must have a budget deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product.

Both the Civic Platform party and the socially conservative Law and Justice support adopting the euro, though the pro-market Civic Platform more urgently. Polls show the two will be the major vote-getters, together winning more than 60 percent and allowing them to rule in a coalition.

Polls also predicted such low support for the governing Democratic Left Alliance that it was not even certain of clearing the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament.

The ex-communist alliance came to power in 2001 and shepherded the country into the European Union. But its popularity has plummeted amid a string of scandals and failure to tackle unemployment of 17.8 percent, the highest in the EU.

The top challengers have been running neck-and-neck in the contest for the 460-seat lower house of parliament, or Sejm, and the 100-seat Senate.

Civic Platform campaigned on reducing state bureaucracy and instituting a 15 percent flat income tax. Law and Justice is determined to preserve many welfare-state protections and says the flat tax would only help the rich.

Regardless of who wins, the next government will have to prepare Poland for the euro, meaning painful spending cuts.

If the outcome is close, the choice of prime minister could be complicated by the fact that Poland also holds presidential elections Oct. 9.

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s identical twin brother, Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, is one of two leading presidential candidates. The other is Civic Platform’s Donald Tusk.


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