Polish Presidential Primary Update

Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced last month that the candidate for his party, Civic Platform (PO), for the October 2010 presidential elections would be “decided by Easter”. With the deadline quickly approaching in under two weeks, the competition between the top two choices, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and Sejm Speaker Bronisław Komorowski, has heated up.

On Sunday, 21 March, the two men squared off in a live televised debate at 1 pm. The moderate debate lasted just under an hour, and the men tackled both domestic and foreign issues.

The candidates began with opening remarks lasting seven minutes each. Mr. Sikorski, who was educated at Oxford, emphasised his understanding of Western issues and mindsets: “To represent Poland well you have to have the necessary personal attributes,” he said. Mr. Komorowski stressed the differences between his own approach and that of incumbent President Lech Kaczyński, who has often clashed publicly with the prime minister. He also emphasised his expertise in domestic policy.

Throughout the debates, however, the candidates were often in agreement on most issues, a fact that is not surprising considering that they belong to the same political party. Both men stressed the importance of defence spending and the continued modernisation of the armed forces, and they also agreed on the restriction of presidential powers, particularly the veto.

One area where the men differed was social policy, with Mr. Sikorski stressing a hands-off approach, which Mr. Komorowski stated that he is against euthanasia, the death penalty, and abortion.

Due to the current president’s and his party’s, Law and Justice (PiS), rising unpopularity, the PO primaries are particularly important as the party is expected to win the presidency regardless of which candidate is picked this month.

The PO presidential candidate will be decided on 27 March, by the party’s 46,000 members via online and postal voting.

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