Poles vote on Kaczynskis in snap election

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WARSAW, Oct 21 (Reuters) Poles voted today in a snap parliamentary election that could weaken the grip of the conservative Kaczynski twins and usher in a more business-friendly government.

Opinion polls suggest the Civic Platform, a centre-right opposition party, will attract most support.

However, no party is likely to win outright which would lead to negotiations over a coalition in the European Union's biggest ex-communist country. This election was called two years early after the last coalition collapsed.

The Platform has plans to speed up economic reform, pull Polish troops out of Iraq and rebuild relations with EU allies that have suffered under the nationalist brothers.

Polls before campaigning ended on Friday put Civic Platform between 4 and 17 points ahead of the ruling Law and Justice Party.

They gave the opposition party up to 47 per cent support.

Voting started at 6 am (0930 IST) on a bright and chilly Sunday morning. An electoral commission official said voting would be extended 20 minutes to 820 pm (2350 IST) in some areas, and exit polls cannot be published until then.

The party of the 58-year-old Kaczynskis, Prime Minister Jaroslaw and President Lech, has run the country of 38 million people during two years of growing prosperity but constant political turbulence.

The Kaczynskis are suspicious of old foes Germany and Russia, and their relations with neighbours are strained.

''Very often we like to complain it's they who decide, they who argue, who govern, directing our complaints at unspecified 'they'. Today we decide who 'they' are,'' said Archbishop Jozef Zycinski after voting in the eastern city of Lublin.

INFIGHTING The last government collapsed after infighting over a corruption investigation. The president does not face an election until 2010.

Financial markets are betting on victory for the Civic Platform.

Expectations that it will win, and accelerate Poland's moves to adopt the euro, have lifted the zloty currency to its highest level for over five years.

Some 30 million Poles are eligible to vote. At stake are 460 seats in the lower house of parliament and 100 Senate seats.

If opposition parties won three fifths of the lower house's seats they would be able to nullify the president's power to veto legislation.

The brothers' drive to root out what they call a corrupt post-communist elite has been at the heart of their campaign.

Rivals accuse them of exploiting the fight against graft to smear opponents.

The power base of the socially conservative Kaczynskis is among older Poles, devout Catholics and people in rural areas who feel left out by the changes since the end of communism.

The opposition Civic Platform can count on greater support in cities and among the young.

''I didn't like being talked down to for the last two years,'' said Jan Zawisz, 43, who voted with his wife in Warsaw.

Sixty-year-old Maria Choszczyk, a teacher, said: ''I voted for Law and Justice. It's the only party that is serious about combating crime and corruption.'' Turnout could be crucial. Only 40 percent voted in the 2005 election and that may have helped the Kaczynskis. Younger voters are less likely to take part.

REUTERS SKB AS1509

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