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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hope for the Hapless Left

Warsaw Business Journal:

The candidacy of Włodzimerz Cimoszewicz for President is the left's best chance to hang on to power

It came as a surprise to nobody except perhaps himself when last week Sejm Speaker Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz announced that he would indeed be running for President, despite earlier statements that he was planning to quit politics. Recent polls suggest that Cimoszewicz is very popular among the public - a rarity for members of the scandal-ridden Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) - and has a good chance of winning at the polls in October. Some surveys put him ahead of the current favorite, Lech Kaczyński.

'Looking at the latest surveys, millions of people expect me to run,' Cimoszewicz said.

Current President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who is prohibited by law from running for a third term, has also been pushing for Cimoszewicz to stand. The two have a close relationship, and Cimoszewicz, who was also Prime Minister from February 1996 to October 1997, served as Minister of Foreign Affairs during most of Kwaśniewski's second term. Kwaśniewski's wife, Jolanta, has been put in charge of Cimoszewicz's campaign.

Pressure on Cimoszewicz to stand in the election has been growing from inside his party over the last few weeks. The SLD, currently the ruling party in government, is expected to lose in a landslide in September's parliamentary polls. Analysts say their only chance to hang onto some measure of power is to win the presidential election.

However, Cimoszewicz says he will run on an independent ticket, not the SLD's. Still, that's where most of his support will come from. The SLD's 'reserve candidate' (in case Cimoszewicz didn't run), Jerzy Szmajdziński, withdrew from the race upon news of Cimoszewicz's candidacy.

Cimoszewicz is expected to focus on European issues during the campaign, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the EU one year after Poland's accession. However, those plans could be hindered by current squabbles within the bloc. Kwaśniewski had hoped to tie Europe to the presidential poll by scheduling a referendum on the proposed constitution for the same day, but was forced to indefinitely postpone it due to the current EU crisis.


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