Polish PM begins building new government after win
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.
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 deepening stability in this ex-communist nation of 38 million.
Tusk was meeting with President Bronislaw Komorowski, who said all logic indicates that Tusk would remain as prime minister. Under Polish law it is the president who charges the victor with forming a government.
Analysts said the result indicates that the government will continue with the broad thrust of its policies, which have been marked by close cooperation with the European Union and using EU funds to modernize a country still struggling to catch up with West Europe economically.
The government has also tried to modernize the country and jolt the economy by privatizing state-run enterprises. Critics, however, say it hasn't gone far enough in reducing regulations and otherwise reforming a country still trying to overcome the economic legacy of communism.
Unemployment is nearly 12 percent and wages are still relatively low, problems that have pushed hundreds of thousands of Poles in recent years to immigrate to Britain and elsewhere.
Still, economic development in Poland has been impressive. The economy is growing at 4 percent this year, though it is expected to slow to around 3 percent next year due to the slowdown across Europe.
Markets reacted positively to the news with Poland's main stock index, the WIG-20, up 1.7 percent and outperforming its European counterparts.
"Overall, the outcome of the elections is good news for investors as pro-market policies are likely to be continued and there should be a solid parliamentary majority for fiscal reforms," Danske Bank said.
A count by electoral authorities from 99.5 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 government debt.
Poland has been shielded from some of the turmoil by not being part of the eurozone. It has also benefited from an influx of EU subsidies that have stimulated development, while its large internal market maintained an appetite for consumption even during the global slowdown.
The near-complete figures from the State Electoral Commission Monday showed just over 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 nearly 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 narrow majority in the 460-member lower house of parliament if they continue their partnership. The Polish People's Party — a socially conservative group that represents farmers' interests — had more than 8 percent support in partial official results. Jointly the two parties could have 234 seats in the 460-member lower house, or Sejm.
After meeting with the president, Tusk was set to also 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 10 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 slightly over 8 percent of the votes cast.
That marks a sharp decline for the party, the successor to the Communist party that ruled Poland before 1989. It has held power off-and-on since communism fell in 1989 but has seen its popularity decline steadily in recent years. In this election it appeared to lose voters to Palikot's Movement, which shares many of its ideological positions. Party chairman Grzegorz Napieralski said he would not put himself up for re-election when his party next votes on its leadership.
Vanessa Gera contributed from Warsaw.