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World News

Komorowski back ahead in tight Polish poll count

WARSAW (Reuters) - Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Poland’s ruling party, regained the lead in a cliffhanger presidential election race, results based on 80 percent of ballots cast showed early on Monday.

Earlier, his rival, right-wing opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, had briefly nudged ahead hours after he conceded defeat and Komorowski claimed victory in what has been billed as Poland’s strangest election since the fall of communism in 1989.

The latest results, announced by the election commission, gave 51.3 percent to Komorowski and 48.7 percent to Kaczynski. It was expected to update the tally at about 0020 GMT on Monday.

Election officials said votes from districts of major Polish cities including Warsaw and Gdansk had still to be counted, a factor which could play to Komorowski’s advantage as he draws more support from younger, urban-based voters.

“We still have good hopes but we need to wait. We are going head to head,” Elzbieta Jakubiak from Kaczynski’s camp told TVN television.

A slew of exit polls published immediately after voting ended on Sunday had all given Komorowski, who is Poland’s acting president, a lead of up to six percentage points.

“I must begin as good manners require by congratulating the winner, Bronislaw Komorowski,” Kaczynski told his supporters after the exit polls showed him losing.

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Komorowski gave a victory speech at his headquarters by saying he would work for the unity of all Poles.

Sunday’s election was precipitated by the death of Kaczynski’s identical twin brother, President Lech Kacyznski, in a plane crash in Russia on April 10.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a combative eurosceptic rated one of Poland’s most unpopular politicians just months ago, has ridden a wave of public sympathy for his bereavement. He has also benefited from a move to the political center ground.

VETO FEARS

Investors would prefer a Komorowski victory because he and Prime Minister Donald Tusk are close allies from the same party, and would be expected to work smoothly with the market-oriented government.

In Poland, the government led by the prime minister sets policy, but the president can propose and veto laws, appoints many key officials and has a say in foreign and security policy.

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Lech Kaczynski had vetoed several government bills before his death.

Markets would view a Jaroslaw Kaczynski win with concern because of his opposition to spending cuts and privatization and the likelihood of increased conflict between government and president.

The European Union’s largest ex-communist member is the only economy in the 27-strong bloc to have avoided recession last year, but a sharp slowdown hammered tax revenues and drove up the budget deficit to 7 percent of gross domestic product.

Writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Noah Barkin

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