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Poland's Komorowski seeks to regain ground in debate

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s presidential election frontrunner Bronislaw Komorowski appeared to win a first live television debate on Sunday, according to an instant opinion poll of viewers.

Bronislaw Komorowski (R), speaker of the Parliament and presidential candidate from the Civic Platform (PO) party, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, presidential candidate of the Law and Justice party (PiS), hold their first face-to-face televised debate at TVP studio in Warsaw June 27, 2010, ahead of the presidential election run-off on July 4. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

An on-line survey conducted by TVN24 web portal among nearly 24,000 people showed 81 percent believed Komorowski won, while 15 percent opted for his rightist rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Only 4 percent thought the debate ended with a tie.

The portal is connected to television stations broadly supportive of Komorowski and some analysts gave the advantage to Kaczynski, however.

Candidate of the ruling centrist Civic Platform, Komorowski won the first round of voting in June by a smaller-than-expected margin of 5 percent of votes over Kaczynski, leader of the main opposition.

Despite being a clear favorite, Komorowski has lost some of his support during the campaign, brought forward by a plane crash in Russia on April 10 which killed the late incumbent -- Kaczynski’s twin brother -- as well as 95 others.

Analysts have blamed Komorowski’s lack of charisma and too conciliatory tone for losing ground to Kaczynski, but on Sunday he presented a more combative image.


“Komorowski has clearly put on a different hat, he put on a cowboy hat and was aggressive ... Kaczynski on the other hand was speaking only to his own voters,” said Artur Wolek of Poland’s Academy of Sciences after the debate.

Komorowski, who also became Poland’s acting president after the crash in his capacity as the speaker of parliament, clashed with Kaczynski over policy toward Belarus, pension system reform, foreign missions and in-vitro fertilisation.

Analysts said Kaczynski had to be more convincing in the second debate on Wednesday to continue closing the gap with Komorowski.

On Saturday an opinion poll showed Komorowski leading ahead of Kaczynski by 11 percentage points ahead of the July 4 run-off vote.

The government, led by the prime minister, holds most powers, but the president has a say on foreign and security issues, appoints state representatives and can veto laws. The late conservative incumbent blocked several government laws.

Kaczynski vowed to defend generous state pensions for privileged social groups like miners and the uniformed services and spoke against legalizing relationships of same-sex couples as well as privatization.

Komorowski called for cooperation between the presidency and the market-oriented government to ensure economic development and catch up with the European Union’s wealthier western states.

“I believe Poles deserves a five-year term of peace, then we will be able to build roads, focus on ensuring EU funds for the countryside,” he said.

Additional reporting by Rob Strybel; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Andrew Roche