Early results show outright win for Polish President

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The Independent Online

The Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, appeared to have been re-elected for a second five-year term, exit polls and unofficial results indicated yesterday.

The Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, appeared to have been re-elected for a second five-year term, exit polls and unofficial results indicated yesterday.

A sample of 520 out of about 24,500 polling stations, released by public television, said Mr Kwasniewski had received 54.7 per cent of the vote - less than the 56.1 per cent indicated by first exit polls but still above the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off.

The Independent Andrzej Olechowski had won 17.6 per cent. Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the right-leaning ruling Solidarity bloc (AWS), which has cohabited uneasily with Mr Kwasniewski since 1997, had received 14.9 per cent. The final results will be announced on Tuesday.

Earlier, the centrist and right-wing rivals of Mr Kwasniewski, an ex-communist turned social democrat, said they were confident one of them would challenge the telegenic former leader of the ex-communist party in a run-off, to be held on 22 October if Mr Kwasniewski did receive less than 50 per cent of the vote.

Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the ruling Solidarity bloc (AWS), with which the President has uneasily cohabited since 1997, hoped the splintered right-wing electorate would unite behind him in the second round.

After casting his vote in Gdansk - the cradle of the anti-communist Solidarity movement - Mr Krzaklewski told reporters: "I am not nervous about the result. We have done very well abroad and across the ocean."

Andrzej Olechowski, the smiling Independent centrist, who ranks second in popularity polls, was also counting on the second round. He said: "I am optimistic."

A relaxed Mr Kwasniewski counted on winning outright and said: "I believe we will save money, nerves and time." The elections feature 12 candidates with views ranging from leftist-radical to ultra-nationalist, but most of them have marginal support rates.

Lech Walesa, the former president, whom Mr Kwasniewski defeated five years ago, put on a brave face in view of his small public support, which analysts say stems from the quarrelsome style of his 1990-1995 presidency.

The former shipyard electrician and Nobel peace prize winner said: "If the second round pits Kwasniewski against Krzaklewski, I will back the latter, as despite differences we come from the same Solidarity camp."

Mr Kwasniewski, 45, was admired for the confidence with which he presided over Poland's entry to Nato last year and the political calm he brought to his post.

He has said that achieving European Union membership will be his top priority during a second term. Poland hopes to join in 2003.

Other main candidates also support quick EU membership, although Mr Krzaklewski stresses the country has to preserve its national identity after its accession.(Reuters)

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