After poor showing in election's first round, Poland's president promises reform

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski says that he seeks to draw a lesson from Sunday's vote, which is seen as a defeat for his party.

Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta/Reuters
Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski speaks a day after the first round of the Polish presidential elections at the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw, Poland May 11, 2015. Komorowski was surprisingly pushed into second place by conservative challenger Andrzej Duda in Sunday's presidential election, although the latest exit poll results show the gap narrowing ahead of official results expected later on Monday, pollster Ipsos said.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Monday vowed to urgently seek a referendum on voting and tax rules if he is re-elected, saying that he was drawing a lesson from his poor electoral showing that saw him forced into a runoff.

The candidate of the conservative nationalist Law and Justice party, Andrzej Duda, is expected to receive 34.5 percent of the first-round vote, to Komorowski's 33.1 percent, according to the IPSOS exit poll released after Sunday's vote. Official results could be announced late Monday, according to state electoral authorities.

The vote seemed to spell trouble for Poland's center-right establishment, in power since 2007, ahead of the fall general election.

Komorowski's result is seen as a defeat for him and the ruling team, all the more so because another anti-establishment candidate, punk rock star Pawel Kukiz, is expected to receive some 20.5 percent of the vote, giving a total of 55 percent of the ballots against the incumbent. Tradition-minded and dignified, Komorowski needs to mobilize all resources if he wants to win the May 24 runoff.

On Monday he said the ruling team "must look reality in the eyes and draw a lesson from the result of yesterday's vote."

"It is an important sign that a large part of public opinion wants change in relations between the people and the state that would give them direct influence on the course of events in Poland," he said.

Komorowski said he would call a referendum on long-debated changes to voting and to tax regulations, but gave no date for it. The referendum would ask Poles whether they want the introduction of single-mandate constituencies in general elections, an end to the funding of political parties from tax money and protection of taxpayers in disputes with state financial authorities.

The good showing of the youthful Duda, who turns 43 on Saturday, and of the energetic Kukiz, pointed to the rising discontent of many Poles with the way that the pro-European Union and pro-business Civic Platform has been running the country. Komorowski was a member of that party until he left in 2010 to be a nonaligned president.

Duda, whose program mixes national pride, Catholic values and social welfare, has called for a wide reform of Poland, especially its health care, economy and education. He is a lawyer with experience in state administration and a European Parliament member.

Komorowski's current five-year term ends in August.

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