Poles to pick new president after tragic plane crash

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

Audio Transcript:

In Poland, voters will decide on a new president on Sunday. The second round of voting will replace Lech Kaczynski who died in a plane crash in April. The campaign has been mostly calm after the tragedy. But as Dave McGuire reports from Warsaw, the run up to the election has exposed a deep division in Poland.

KATY CLARK: In Poland, voters will decide on a new president this Sunday. It's a run-off election featuring the top two vote-getters in the first round. The winner will succeed President Lech Kaczynski who died in a plane crash in April. The campaign has been mostly calm after the tragedy. But as Dave McGuire reports from Warsaw, the run up to the vote has exposed a deep division in Poland.

DAVE MCGUIRE: There are two candidates in this run-off election, but many Poles will also say it's a contest between two separate Polands. There's a popular theory that Poland can be divided between those who have done well since the end of communism 20 years ago, and those who haven't. Each of these Polands has its candidate. The ruling party's man appeals to young, professional and cosmopolitan Poles, according to journalist Andrzej Stankiewicz.

ANDRZEJ STANKIEWICZ: These people are happy with everything what happened in Poland after 1990, I mean collapse of the communism and its consequences. They are happy that Poland is in NATO and in European Union and so on and so on.

MCGUIRE: Bronislaw Komorowski is their candidate. He promotes his pro-business, pro-Europe stances and advocates cutting government subsidies. He's also the frontrunner, but the momentum in the campaign has been swaying to the other Poland. Again journalist Andrzej Stankiewicz:

STANKIEWICZ: There is second group of people which are frustrated. They are not so happy with their jobs, some of them because they are generally a little bit older they feel that during communism they were more happy.

MCGUIRE: The opposition candidate is Jaroslaw Kaczynski. He's the identical twin of the late president, Lech. Jaroslaw says he's running to continue his brother's dream of a strong, independent Poland. He's opposed to the kinds of social cuts that the ruling party says are inevitable. When he served as Prime Minister a few years ago, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's anti-corruption policies were considered bad for business and his tough rhetoric with Germany earned him a reputation as difficult in the EU. This divide in Poland isn't just between old and young, happy and unhappy. It's also geographic. Poles in the east of the country supported Kaczynski in the first round of voting, Poles in the west went for Komorowski. Here in Warsaw, the concept of two Polands is both popular and problematic. The capital would seem to belong in the Komorowski camp. It's dynamic, modern, and wealthy. But there are posters for Kaczynski everywhere. And there are plenty of people here who don't fit into just one category. Karolina Czerwosz is a young, well-educated woman working in Warsaw. She speaks two foreign languages and she's lived abroad. On paper, she should vote Komorowski, but she's a diehard Kaczynski supporter.

KAROLINA CZERWOSZ: I think it's propaganda. That everybody who are educated, who are speaking other languages, they should vote for Komorowski. It's not true.

MCGUIRE: She thinks Kaczynski will do a better job of protecting Polish interests. But no matter who wins, American interests have nothing to fear from either candidate, according to political scientist Mikolaj Czesnik.

MIKOLAJ CZESNIK: I don't see much difference here. I mean they are both strongly pro-American. We Poles are probably one of your best allies in Europe.

MCGUIRE: Opinion surveys give Komorowski a slight lead, but Kaczynski did much better in the first round than the polls predicted. So Poland may have another President Kaczynski come Monday morning, meaning the divide between the two Polands will continue. For The World, this is Dave McGuire in Warsaw.

Do you enjoy our audio? Please help support it with a donation.