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Poles Vote in Early Presidential Elections


Poland is holding its first round of presidential elections Sunday, to choose a new head of state after the country's former President, Lech Kaczynski, was killed in a plane crash in April.

One of the two leading candidates in Sunday's poll is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of the late president and leader of the far-right Law and Justice party. His main opponent is Poland's acting President, Bronislaw Komorowksi, running for the governing center-right Civic Platform party.

Opinion polls have put Komorowksi in the lead. But since the crash at Smolensk, Kaczynski and his party have been steadily gaining support.

One woman voting for Kaczynski says that for her, he represents traditional Polish values.

"If Kaczynski will be the president, I believe that we will all be proud of being Poles, and we will combine the future, and a modern country, with a deep understanding of our past, of our history, our tradition," she said.

But for many Poles, Kaczynski remains a highly controversial figure. Both he and his brother were known both for their conservative stand on social issues and for their hostility toward the European Union. Kaczynski has also been openly suspicious of Poland's historical enemies, particularly Russia and Germany.

One man at a polling station says that the only reason he is voting in this election is to keep Kaczynski out of office.

"It's the first time I've voted, so I had to register myself and everything, and I did it especially for Komorowksi to win," he said. "I don't want Kaczynski to win. He's a part of history. He's not going forward, he's going backwards, and Poland has to move on."

Another Komorowski supporter says she too is voting mainly to prevent Kaczynski from winning.

She says that since the plane crash, many people have been thinking of politics in emotional, rather than rational, terms. This, she says, is where Kaczynski's support comes from, and for her Komorowski represents a more rational choice.

To win the election, one candidate has to secure at least 50 percent of the vote. Otherwise, the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff vote on July 4.

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