Polish opposition pulls ahead before election

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WARSAW, Oct 17 (Reuters) Poland's main opposition has pulled ahead of the party led by the ruling Kaczynski twins days ahead of a snap parliamentary election, opinion polls showed today.

The opposition Civic Platform wants faster reforms to central Europe's biggest economy and closer EU ties. The eurosceptic Kaczynskis have made a fight against corruption the centrepiece of their campaign in the former communist country.

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 turning point in the campaign appears to have been a televised debate between Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk last weekend in which the prime minister came off worse.

Insurgent attacks on Polish forces in Iraq have also drawn attention to the unpopular troop presence there. The pro-US prime minister and his twin brother, Lech, the president strongly support keeping troops in Iraq.

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 election was called two years early after the collapse of the prime minister's last coalition government amid infighting over a corruption investigation.

The president does not face re-election until 2010 and made clear this week that he was ready to make life difficult for the main opposition parties the Civic Platform and a leftist group if they try to form a coalition after the election.

No party looks set to get enough votes to rule alone.

The big question for the opposition parties could be whether they win the three-fifths of the 460-member parliament they would need to override the president's veto on legislation.

Financial markets tend to favour the Civic Platform in the belief it would do a better job of keeping spending under control, speed up privatisation and move more quickly to bring Poland into the euro currency zone.

REUTERS RN AS1237

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