Poland's Kaczynski agrees to debate main rival

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WARSAW, Oct 9 (Reuters) Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski today agreed to a debate with the leader of the main opposition party as polls pointed to an increasingly close race for a parliamentary election.

Kaczynski, a conservative who runs Poland with twin brother Lech, the president, had previously resisted meeting centre-right Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk despite holding a debate with a leftist former president.

But a poll today showed the Civic Platform retaking a slight lead over the ruling Law and Justice party ahead of the October 21 parliamentary election in the European Union's largest former communist country.

The poll increased pressure on the prime minister for a debate with Tusk, whose party is favoured by markets because it seeks faster reform of central Europe's biggest economy.

''There's been too much talking..., too much name calling.

And so on Friday, at 2330 hrs IST I am ready to meet Mr Tusk,'' Kaczynski said in a public radio interview.

The snap election was called after the prime minister's shaky coalition with two fringe parties collapsed last month, erasing a parliamentary majority.

The election campaign has been dominated by aggressive advertising campaigns and increasingly bitter rhetoric while policy discussions have taken more of a back seat.

Kaczynski's debate with former President Aleksander Kwasniewski drew record viewing figures two weeks ago, but neither politician landed any major blows nor persuaded a large number of undecided voters.

Political analysts said Kaczynski appeared to be seeking to sideline Tusk by ignoring his challenge to a debate and had been counting on his party's populist anti-corruption message to cement support in more rural areas.

The Civic Platform has criticised the Kaczynskis for failing to take advantage of the booming economy to build up the dilapidated infrastructure and improve living standards.

But it has struggled to sell its message given falling unemployment and rising wages.

Recent opinion polls suggest no party will win an outright majority, meaning coalition talks would be needed.

Some Civic Platform leaders have said it might form a coalition with Kwasniewski's bloc, but the president would still be in a position to veto its policies unless it secured a big enough majority in parliament.

The president does not face re-election until 2010.

REUTERS SG PM1755

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