Europe breathes sigh of relief at Polish poll result

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The Independent Online

Bronislaw Komorowski's election as President has offered Poland's pro-business ruling party an opportunity – but also a challenge – as it prepares to govern without the obstacle of a hostile head of state.

With parliamentary elections scheduled for late 2011, the Civic Platform party of Mr Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk must now show the country whether it can tackle major economic problems, including high debt and unemployment.

"Civic Platform! You now have total power," the tabloid Fakt declared in large type on its front page yesterday. "Show what you can do – you have a year!"

Mr Komorowski won 53 per cent of the vote to 47 per cent for his rival, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the state electoral commission announced yesterday. Mr Kaczynski had conceded defeat on Sunday night after exit polls predicted his rival had won.

Mr Komorowski has pledged to work closely with the government to support its program of modernising Poland and trimming the welfare state. Any painful changes could hurt Mr Tusk in next year's elections. Among reforms the government wants is an increase in the retirement age. Currently women can retire at 60 and men at 65.

The election was held months ahead of schedule following the death in a plane crash of President Lech Kaczynski in April. His identical twin brother, Jaroslaw – a relatively unpopular politician just months ago – made a run for the seat and won significant support after shedding his combative image and benefiting from a surgein sympathy over the loss of his brother.

Memories of the chaotic government Jaroslaw Kaczynski led from 2006-2007 probably helped keep him from victory, but his strong showing has boosted his followers' hopes that he might strengthen his showing in future elections.

Mr Komorowski's victory will be welcome news for leaders in Berlin and Brussels. Jaroslaw Kaczynski is a noted nationalist and Eurosceptic; reluctant to adopt the euro or to cede much sovereignty to the EU. When he was prime minister, his government was often at loggerheads with officials in Brussels.