Polish PM begins building new government after win

October 10, 2011 - 5:15 AM
Poland Election

Prime Minister Donald Tusk celebrates with his wife Malgorzata, left, as the first exit poll is published during the election party of Tusk's Civic Platform, a centrist and pro-EU party, in Warsaw Sundey, Oct. 9, 2011. An exit poll shows that the centrist Civic Platform party of Prime Minister Donald Tusk is winning Poland's national election with 39.6 percent of the votes. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk turned his attention to building a new government Monday after initial election results showed that his centrist, pro-European coalition government maintained a majority in parliament.

Markets reacted positively to the news of Tusk's win with Polish shares and the zloty up strongly.

Tusk's victory represents the first time in Poland's post-communist history that a ruling party has won a second consecutive term — a sign of stability in this central European nation of 38 million.

Full official results are not expected until Tuesday, but a count by electoral authorities from 93 percent of constituencies gave a comfortable lead to Civic Platform, a pro-European party that has presided over four years of growth at a time when much of the continent has been reeling from a financial crisis and rising levels of debt.

The partial figures from the State Electoral Commission early Monday showed 39 percent 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 percent support. The twin brother of President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash last year, acknowledged his defeat at his party's election night gathering.

That count shows that Tusk's pro-market Civic Platform and its coalition partner, the Polish People's Party, would hold a five-vote majority in the 460-member lower house of parliament. The Polish People's Party — a socially conservative group that represents farmers' interests — had 8.6 percent support in partial official results. Jointly the two parties could have 236 seats in the 460-member lower house, or Sejm.

Tusk was set to meet later on Monday with Grzegorz Schetyna, the speaker of the outgoing parliament and a key leader in his party. They are to discuss political strategy ahead of talks on building a new coalition.

Civic Platform leaders said Sunday that they favor continuing their coalition with the Polish Peoples' Party. The two parties enjoyed a drama-free relationship, at least in public, that added to the government's stable image.

Though the parties had some disagreements, they managed to work them out behind closed doors in contrast to the public fighting that had marred past governments, according to Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a prominent party member.

In a first, a new left-wing party that supports gay rights, Palikot's Movement, was in third place with 9.9 percent. 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.

It favors other liberal causes like liberalizing the country's strict abortion laws and wants the legalization of marijuana.

The only other party that would make it into parliament is the Democratic Left Alliance, which is estimated to have won 8.2 percent of the votes cast. That marks a sharp decline from elections four years ago, when the party won 13 percent. The party appeared to lose voters to Palikot's Movement, which shares many of its ideological positions.

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Vanessa Gera contributed from Warsaw.