Poland's rulers accused over anti-graft campaign

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WARSAW, Oct 17 (Reuters) Poland's ruling Kaczynski twins faced accusations of exploiting an anti-corruption drive to smear rivals today while opinion polls showed the main opposition party taking a lead ahead of a snap election.

Conservative Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, fighting a strong challenge from the centre-right party, has put the battle against corruption at the heart of his re-election campaign in the European Union's biggest former communist country.

Late yesterday, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau released video footage showing a former deputy from the opposition Civic Platform taking a bribe from an undercover agent. The agency originally broke news of the affair two weeks ago.

''What must concern us is the use of the fight against corruption, special services and the head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau directly in an election campaign and especially in the finale,'' said Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk.

Other opposition parties condemned the release of the pictures.

So did the influential right-leaning Dziennik daily, seen as pro-government in the past: ''The materials shown were meant to cast a shadow over the opposition party that is leading in the polls and not for the good of the investigation.'' The head of the anti-corruption agency said he released the materials because of what he described as ''opposition attacks'' on his agency, which was set up under the prime minister and his brother Lech, the president.

APOLOGY The deputy who was filmed taking the bribe made a tearful apology on television.

She said she was the target of a year-long sting operation in which an agent, who had ''pretended to have feelings'' for her, offered a bribe along with a bouquet of flowers.

The parliamentary election was called two years early after the collapse of the prime minister's last coalition government amid infighting over a corruption investigation. Four opinion polls published today put the Civic Platform ahead of the ruling Law and Justice party by between 3 and 9 percentage points. One poll suggested the opposition party could get as much as 43 per cent of the vote.

The Civic Platform can count on support in cities that have done best from an economic boom. The ruling party's support base is in staunchly Catholic rural areas, where many still feel left out by the changes since the end of communism.

The turning point in the campaign appears to have been a televised debate at the weekend that the prime minister is widely seen as having lost to Tusk, whose party wants faster economic reform and more progress towards adopting the euro currency.

With no party expected to win outright, coalition talks are likely after the election. Because the Kaczynskis have alienated many potential allies, the Civic Platform might have an advantage in forming a government.

The president does not face re-election until 2010 and made clear this week he was ready to make life difficult for Tusk if he tried to form a government with the leftist bloc expected to take third place.

REUTERS PD KN1836

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