Big guns rally round Walesa

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Three former prime ministers of Poland lined up yesterday to throw their weight behind Lech Walesa's campaign for re-election as President after his strong showing in Sunday's first round of voting.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Jan Krzyzstof Bielecki and Hanna Suchocka, all of whom held the premiership following the overthrow of Communism in 1989, declared their support for Mr Walesa in his run-off with the former Communist Aleksander Kwasniewski on 19 November.

With votes still being counted from the first round, Mr Walesa looked likely to win 33.3 per cent, close behind Mr Kwasniewski on 34.8 per cent. His hopes for success in 11 days' time lie in capturing a majority of the votes cast for the other 11 candidates contesting Sunday's vote. As nearly all the other candidates had their political roots in the Solidarity movement that Mr Walesa led against Communism, the President now looks the clear favourite.

In addition to the three former prime ministers, Mr Walesa looked certain to capture most of the votes of those who supported the respected former dissident Jacek Kuron, who came third with almost 9 per cent of the vote on Sunday.

He can also expect to collect most of those cast for another former prime minister, Jan Olszewski. According to a new poll, Mr Walesa could win 51 per cent compared with just 44 per cent for Mr Kwasniewski.

Although it was widely predicted that the two men would face each other in the second round, few expected Mr Walesa to come so close to his main rival. Most analysts attributed his success to the fact that many polls see this election as being essentially a rerun of the struggle between Communism and Solidarity in the 1980s.