A former Communist last night appeared to be heading for victory over Lech Walesa in Poland's presidential election.
According to partial results, Aleksander Kwasniewski, a junior minister in Poland's last Communist government, was set to capture 51.4 per cent compared to 48.6 per cent for Mr Walesa. Most pre-election polls indicated a narrow win for Mr Walesa, the man who, as leader of the Solidarity trade union, played a key role in the downfall of Communism in 1989.
With the Polish government and parliament already dominated by Mr Kwasniewski's SLD party, last night's result completed a dramatic return for the former Communists.
In seeking re-election, Mr Walesa presented himself as the last bastion against the reformed Communists, whom he described as unrepentant Bolsheviks. But while sharing his mistrust of too much power in SLD hands, many Poles were dissatisfied with the way Mr Walesa has handled his five-year term of office.
Mr Kwasniewski, a young, attractive and articulate candidate, insisted that he was now a social democrat and fully converted to the cause of democracy. He also promised that if elected he would maintain Poland's drive to join the European Union and Nato.
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