Election to Replace Polish President Who Died in Plane Crash Goes to Runoff

BY Larisa Epatko  June 21, 2010 at 4:07 PM EST


Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Photo by Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

In Poland, a presidential election held over the weekend to fill the vacancy left when the incumbent died in a plane crash in April, now heads to a runoff on July 4 between the acting president and the late leader’s twin brother.

The twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the far-right Law and Justice party, did slightly better than expected, getting nearly 37 percent of the vote, while acting president and speaker of the parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski of the ruling pro-business Civic Platform, garnered 41 percent of the vote, which is slightly less than expected, said Jan Cienski, GlobalPost’s correspondent based in Warsaw, Poland.

Now, the two candidates are trying to scoop up the supporters of some of the more minor candidates, particularly those of Grzegorz Napieralski — the leader of the ex-communists’ Democratic Left Alliance — who did surprisingly well by getting 14 percent of the vote.

The April 10 airplane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski affected the presidential race in several ways.

Kaczynski had a huge wave of sympathy because of the loss of his twin brother in the airplane crash, but he also recalibrated his public persona to become much more moderate, said Cienski. “He was quite a divisive figure before, and he made a big effort to reach out to his political enemies, and to reach out to Germany and Russia and present himself in a more acceptable way, which paid off in the election.”

The Democratic Left Alliance also lost their presidential candidate, Jerzy Szmajdzinski, in the plane crash, so they chose Napieralski to run in his place.

“Also, Polish elections can be quite brutal, and in this case, there was more of a genteel tone to the way that the election was conducted,” Cienski continued. “The candidates tried not to attack each other personally, so a bit of a different tone than in normal elections. But I don’t think that it really filtered down to the behavior of the average voter. The crash happened about six or seven weeks ago now and so the immediate impact of it has diminished slightly.”