Poles pick new president after air-crash death | world | Hindustan Times
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Poles pick new president after air-crash death

world Updated: Jul 04, 2010 21:31 IST

Poles voted Sunday in a snap election forced by the air-crash death of conservative president Lech Kaczynski, with his twin bidding to replace him and keep out the governing liberals' candidate.

Pitting hardball ex-prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski against soft-spoken acting president Bronislaw Komorowski, the run-off marks the latest chapter in a bitter power struggle.

Lech Kaczynski perished on April 10 when his jet crashed in Smolensk, western Russia as it landed for a World War II commemoration. A total of 96 people died, among them his wife, senior politicians and military top brass.

The law made parliamentary speaker Komorowski acting president of the nation of 38 million.

Still reeling from the crash, Poland was battered in May and June by the worst floods in decades which killed 24 and forced thousands from their homes.

"The campaign's behind us, now we await the result," the unmarried Kaczynski, 61, said after voting in Warsaw alongside his bereaved niece, Marta.

Campaigning was illegal from midnight Friday until the close of polls at 1800 GMT today.

Komorowski voted in his rural retreat Mackowa Ruda, in northeastern Poland.

Asked if he was confident, he simply told reporters: "Very".

A final poll Friday put Komorowski's support at 51 per cent and Kaczynski's, 44 per cent, leaving floating voters with the key.

Lech Kaczynski came from behind to beat liberal Donald Tusk -- now prime minister -- in the 2005 presidential race.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the conservative, eurosceptic Law and Justice party, was premier in 2006-2007 but lost a general election to Tusk and Komorowski's Civic Platform.

Thereafter, Law and Justice counted on Lech Kaczynski, who used presidential veto powers 18 times to block the liberals' laws.

With an eye on core conservatives -- older, small-town or rural residents, in contrast with younger, urban liberals --the twins battled welfare reforms and a new privatisation drive.

"I'll be voting for Jaroslaw Kaczynski because he's for the people," Anna Wesolowska, 67, told AFP near a cathedral in the southern city Krakow where the presidential couple's tomb lies. "But honestly, if Komorowski wins then that also would be good".

The liberals underscore that Poland was alone in the 27-nation European Union in posting economic growth last year.