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Poland's New President Unifies Government

Poland has a new president, Bronislaw Komorowski, was declared the winner of the second round of presidential elections. The results of Sunday's election bring the presidency more in line with the government, and could strengthen Poland's ties with the rest of Europe.

Bronislaw Komorowski and Jaroslaw Kaczynski were locked in a tight race going into Sunday's election, but Komorowski was declared the winner, with 53 percent of the vote against Kaczynski's 47 percent.

The two were facing off in a run-off election, after neither won an absolute majority in the first round on June 20.

Mr. Komorowski was running for the center-right Civic Platform party. Mr. Kaczynski ran for the far-right Law and Justice party in the place of his twin brother, the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash in April.

In Poland, the prime minister holds more power than the president, though the president can block legislation with a veto. Since the Civic Platform Party also controls Parliament, it should be easier for Prime Minister Donald Tusk to push through his platform of market-friendly reforms. In the past, many of the Civic Platform's proposals had been vetoed by the late president, Lech Kaczynski.

Bartlomiej Nowak of the Warsaw-based Center for International Relations says he does not anticipate any dramatic foreign policy changes, but president-elect Komorowski is likely to be a strong supporter of Poland quickly adopting the euro currency.

"I think there is a lot of convergence between Komorowski and Prime Minister Tusk that we should join the eurozone as quickly as possible," said Nowak. "There is a general conviction that the eurozone today is not only about the economy, but it is about politics. It is the political core of the European Union where the majority of decisions will be taken. So we must join," he said.

Mr. Komorowski's party has traditionally supported close ties with the European Union. This was in contrast to both Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his brother Lech, both of whom were considered to be Eurosceptics.

Nowak says since the United States' focus has shifted away from Central and Eastern Europe, Mr. Komorowski's presidency will likely see less emphasis on trans-Atlantic ties in favor of closer relations with Poland's European neighbors.

"The biggest priorities for the United States today are in Asia. We are in Europe, and we must invest in European capabilities in security and defense," Nowak said. "This is one of the first priorities for the Polish Presidency in 2011. Komorowski is an expert in security and defense, so I think it is to the benefit of all," he said.

The vote counting process on Sunday led to an overnight cliffhanger, as the lead shifted back and forth between the two candidates. At one point the Polish media had briefly declared that Kaczynski was winning.

This Kaczynski supporter says he was excited when, in the middle of the night, he heard Mr. Kaczynski had pulled ahead in the vote count. As it is, he says, the results are unfortunate.

On the other hand, one woman who voted for Mr. Komorowski says that although she is not usually interested in politics, she is proud to have voted in this election. She says she is waiting to see whether Komorowski will fulfill his election promises, but she thinks Poland will be a better place now that he is president.

In his concession speech late Sunday, Mr. Kaczynski urged his supporters to work hard for Poland's parliamentary elections next year. With Kaczynski polling so well in this election, most analysts say he remains a formidable political opponent for the ruling party.