After a dramatic night for Polish democracy, Bronisław Komorowski of the ruling liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO) emerged as the winner in the presidential election run-off, held on Sunday (4 July). EurActiv Poland reports.
The election proved to be tighter than opinion polls had suggested.
At around 10 p.m, Komorowski appeared to have won, with 50.6% of the vote against 49.4% for Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS party) and twin brother of late President Lech Kaczyński, who died in a plane crash in April.
But with 21% of the ballot counted, the result was still in the balance and shortly before midnight, the winner appeared to be Kaczyński, with 50.4% of votes in his favour.
New results came in at around 1 a.m, when 80.39% of the ballot had been counted. By this time, Komorowski had regained the lead with 51.3% of the vote.
This trend was later confirmed and with 95% of the ballot counted, Komorowski had secured 52.6% against 47.4% for Kaczyński.
Komorowski hails high turnout
Pointing to the relatively high turnout (more than 54%), in his first comments Komorowski claimed that his victory was not personal but that "democracy [had] won". More than 23 million Poles had the right to participate in the election.
A father of five and a politician known for his calm temper, Komorowski will become Poland's fourth democratically-elected head of state since the fall of communism in 1989.
For his part, Kaczyński conceded victory and said that his goal was to change Poland. He added that he was optimistic about the upcoming communal and parliamentary elections next year.
Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former president from the centre-left who served two mandates, expressed satisfaction with the result and said that with Komorowski, the PO would have "100% power and 100% responsibility" and would have to deliver on the social expectations of many Poles.
He said Komorowski was an experienced politician and a honest person.
According to former dissident Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, great challenges lie ahead for the PO after the party's victory. "The Civic Platform will have the comfort of power and no more excuse not to reform the state. Now is the time for the long-promised reforms," he wrote.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Poland should conduct a wise and tight economic policy in the hope of gathering the support of parliament. However, he said this would not be an easy task in view of upcoming parliamentary elections in autumn 2011.
Sławomir Sierakowski, a sociologist and commentator for left-wing journal Krytyka Polityczna, said he did not expect the Civic Platform to undertake much-needed reforms of the public finances and budget. "Who will provide the alibi this time when the president is not linked to the opposition anymore? What will be more important for the Civic Platform, re-election in 2011 or the realisation of its own programme?"
Professor Jadwiga Staniszkis, a sociologist, noted the good result obtained by Jaroslaw Kaczyński. He was not a loser, she argued, as his starting position was massively inferior and in the end he managed to be a strong rival to Komorowski.
Former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski was unenthusiastic, pointing out that Poland remained very much divided between wealthy and poor people. He was contradicted by Professor Janusz Czapinski, a political analyst, who emphasised that the deep divisions to which Olszewski had alluded were ideological and symbolical.
The news of Bronisław Komorowski's presidency could help boost the złoty, but major economic reform should not be expected, the Warsaw Business Journal wrote.
Economists say investors would greet Komorowski with moderate satisfaction - cooperation between the Civic Platform (PO) government and a president from the same party could mean an easier road to economic reform.
"Komorowski's success should within a week strengthen the złoty by 2% and decrease the difference between interest rates on Polish and German bonds by 0.3 percentage points," said BNP Paribas economist Michał Dybuła.
However, no-one is expecting a miracle healing of the public finances. "The markets will probably react with slight optimism to Bronisław Komorowski's election. But they will be far from enthusiastic," Danska Bank economist Lars Christensen said.
Joseph Daul (FR) MEP, chairman of the EPP Group welcomed Mr Komorowski's election, describing the news as "good for Poland and good for Europe."
"I would like to thank you for your commitment to European values, your work on behalf of freedom and democracy in your own country and I assure you that you have our full support and best wishes for the success of your Presidency", he concluded.