Polish PM looks set for second term
Polish prime minister Donald Tusk appears to have clinched a second term in office for his centrist, pro-European Civic Platform party in parliamentary elections, a historic first in the country's post-communist era.
One exit poll gave Tusk's party nearly 40% support, well ahead of its main challenger, the conservative Law and Justice party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The poll, by the TNS OBOP institute, showed Kaczynski's party winning 30% of the votes.
Tusk's apparent victory comes after he has presided over four years of impressive economic growth. The country managed to keep growing even in 2009, when the rest of the European Union fell into recession, a feat attributed to an inflow of EU funds and a large domestic market of 38 million that maintained an appetite for consumption.
The country has also seen a boom in construction in its major cities, thanks to preparations to co-host the Euro 2012 football championship next year. Poles have watched as dilapidated train stations got facelifts and modern stadiums mushroomed in some cities.
"It is the highest honour for me and for Civic Platform that we will be working for the next four years for all of you, regardless of who you voted for today," Tusk told jubilant supporters. "In the next four years we will work twice as hard."
Foreign minister Radek Sikorski, a leading member of Tusk's party, called the party's showing "confirmation that our concept of European cooperation and modernisation of Poland is finding approval".
The government has privatised some state industries and has tried to build better ties with European Union allies as well as Russia. However, its critics say it lacks the will to make deeper-reaching reforms.
A new left-wing party, Palikot's Movement, was in third place in the exit poll with just over 10% of the vote. Led by entrepreneur and maverick lawmaker Janusz Palikot, the party has been the surprise of the election season, gaining popularity in a short time on promises to fight the power of the Roman Catholic church in society and other socially liberal causes.
Despite Palikot's strong showing, Sikorski said Civic Platform is interested in continuing its coalition with the Polish People's Party, its junior partner of the past four years.
The Polish People's Party is a small farm-based group with conservative social values that favours the interests of farmers. It has 8.2% support in the exit poll.