Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Polish PM seeks coalition partner

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk appears to have clinched a second term in office (AP)

Poland's prime minister is preparing to search for a coalition partner after his centrist party won the country's parliamentary elections but fell short of an overall majority.

Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party is the first in the 22 years since the fall of communism in Poland to win a second consecutive term.

That feat underlines the growing political stability in Poland, a central European nation of 38 million whose economy has flourished since it joined the European Union in 2004.

As in the first term, Mr Tusk will need a coalition partner to ensure a majority in the 460-member lower house, or Sejm. He said talks would open Monday. It was not immediately clear whether a continuation of the current coalition with the farm-based Polish People's Party would provide a sufficient number of seats.

Full official results are expected on Tuesday, but a count by electoral authorities from 93.05% of constituencies gave a comfortable lead to Civic Platform, a pro-European party that has presided over four years of growth even amid decline elsewhere on the continent.

The partial figures from the State Electoral Commission showed 39% support for Civic Platform, well ahead of its main rival, the conservative Law and Justice party of former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which had 30% support.

In another first, a new left-wing party that supports gay rights, the legalisation of marijuana and other liberal causes was poised to gain representation in parliament. The party's quick rise comes amid disillusionment with the established parties, but also seems to be a sign of deepening secular sentiment in this traditionally conservative and Catholic nation.

The new party, Palikot's Movement, was in third place with 9.9%. Led by entrepreneur and maverick lawmaker Janusz Palikot, the party has gained popularity promising to fight the power of the Roman Catholic church in public life.

Unlike in secular Western Europe, in Polish public life the church still has great influence, which can be seen in the strict abortion laws and in the presence of crosses in many public offices.

Tusk's apparent victory appears to be a reward for presiding over four years of impressive economic growth - a feat attributed to an inflow of EU funds and a large domestic market of 38 million that maintained an appetite for consumption.

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