Debate of Polish leaders seen changing few minds

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WARSAW, Oct 2 (Reuters) Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was widely seen as the loser in a debate with Poland's leftist ex-president, but analysts said their lacklustre sparring would sway few voters ahead of a parliamentary election.

Neither the conservative Kaczynski nor Aleksander Kwasniewski landed any major blows in the debate watched on Monday by a record 9.1 million Poles, three weeks ahead of the election in the European Union's biggest ex-communist member.

Two surveys after the debate showed the more polished Kwasniewski won by a small margin, but nearly all of those polled said the debate had not changed their intentions.

Political observers said the clash could even benefit the main opposition party, the centre-right Civic Platform, level in opinion polls with Kaczynski's Law and Justice. Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk was excluded from the debate.

''Certainly Law and Justice won't lose from this debate, while LiD (the leftist bloc) won't gain,'' said political analyst Jadwiga Staniszkis. ''The Civic Platform can gain.'' Recent polls have shown Law and Justice and the Civic Platform both taking close to one third of the vote with the leftists on only about half that. A poll before the debate gave a four-point lead to the Civic Platform.

Markets favour the opposition party because it is seen as more pro-business and more likely to carry out economic reforms. The election is being held two years early after the collapse of Kaczynski's coalition government.

Lech Walesa, ex-president and colourful leader of the Solidarity union that helped bring down communism, said late on Monday he would reluctantly back the Civic Platform against his friends-turned-foes, the ruling Kaczynski twins.

Walesa appeared unimpressed by Monday's debate.

''I always said this would be a game of soccer and hockey on the same field,'' he said in a radio interview.

The euro-sceptic Kaczynski, who runs Poland with his twin brother Lech, the president, touted the recent economic boom and said his predecessors had failed to rid the country of corruption after the fall of communism nearly two decades ago.

Kwasniewski, who saw Poland join the NATO and the European Union during his decade in office, replied that Kaczynski's aggressive approach had alienated foreign leaders and ruined many of his achievements.

REUTERS ARB AS1640

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