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Poland's Prime Minister Fights For Political Life In Elections

The people of Poland have begun voting in parliamentary elections that could see the liberal opposition take power from the conservative-leaning party of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest the election follows a major corruption scandal.

Poland's many voting stations opened early for what has become a bitter contest between Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his pro-business rival Donald Tusk.

Opinion polls released before the ballot showed Mr. Kaczynski's outspoken conservative Law and Justice Party slightly behind Mr. Tusk's pro-business, liberal-leaning, Civic Platform.

The vibrant Tusk saw populists over corruption allegations. The prime minister has said he wants to continue his anti-corruption and family values agenda, but with a new team.

Opposition parties say they want a more pro-Western direction for Poland, the largest Eastern European member of the European Union. They have expressed concerns about Poland's strained ties with neighboring Germany and the rest of Europe under the prime minister and his identical twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski.

Prime Minister Kaczynski clashed this year with other EU countries over a new treaty on how to govern the bloc, demanding more say for Poland. He said Poland deserved more voting rights as his country's population would have been bigger than its current 38 million if the German Nazis had not killed millions of them during the Second World War.

Opposition leader Donald Tusk told reporters that in his recent debate with the prime minister he wanted to lay out a more modern vision for Poland.

"That clash of two worlds was a real battle over Poland's future. I am glad I could also talk about my dreams and what I imagine Poland can be," Tusk said.

Using the Internet, Mr. Tusk has tried to appeal to younger voters. Older members of the population are believed to be more wary of change and expected to give the incumbent prime minister a second chance.

Poles are electing 460 members of the lower house, the Sejm, and 100 members of the Senate, who are chosen on a winner-take-all basis. Seven parties and election coalitions have been standing in the national contest, as well as a handful of political movements, which have only put up candidates in a few constituencies.

Just more than 30 million people could cast ballots Sunday, but there were concerns about a low voter turnout, which has been slipping in every Polish election. Two years ago just more than 40 percent of voters cast ballots.

Official results are expected Monday or Tuesday.