Polish vote winners to push for reform, EU ties

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WARSAW, Oct 22 (Reuters) Poland's centre-right election victors will start talks this week to form a ruling coalition to push through economic reforms and bring the country back into the EU mainstream, party leaders said today.

The centre-right Civic Platform defeated the conservative Law and Justice party of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Sunday's election after a record number of Poles voted to reject social conservatism and isolationism.

Platform leader Donald Tusk, expected to be the new prime minister, will start talks in the second half of this week with the centrist Peasants' Party on forming a new government for the European Union's biggest ex-communist state.

Party officials said a final decision on a coalition would be taken on November 10.

''We will have to form the broadest possible formula for cooperating with all who wanted to remove Law and Justice from power,'' Bronislaw Komorowski, the Platform's deputy leader.

According to partial results from the electoral commission, the Platform won over 41 per cent of the vote, giving it 209 seats in the lower house -- short of an outright majority of 231 seats. Final results are due tomorrow.

With 99 per cent of the vote counted, the Peasants' Party had almost 9 per cent, giving the likely government a total of 240 seats in the 460-seat lower house, the Sejm.

The Peasants have signalled readiness to join a coalition and their leader, Waldemar Pawlak, made clear the party backed the Platform's push for cuts to the 2008 budget plan.

TWINS DEFEATED Kaczynski, whose party got 32 per cent, conceded defeat.

His twin brother Lech, the president, does not face an election until 2010 but opposition parties together will get enough parliamentary seats to override his vetoes.

The president must nominate the next prime minister once the new parliament meets for the first time on November 5.

The Kaczynskis have ruled during an economic boom, but almost constant political infighting.

Poland's zloty and bonds strengthened after the opposition win as markets expect new impetus for reforms such as tax cuts and privatisation in central Europe's biggest economy. Faster progress towards adopting the euro currency is also likely.

The Platform's victory was greeted with relief in EU capitals, where the Kaczynskis won a reputation as troublemakers with their nationalist agenda since coming to power in 2005.

''It is a good signal for Europe. And things will surely get a bit easier between Germany and Poland,'' European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering told reporters in Berlin.

''One is always happy when a committed European becomes head of a new government,'' said Poettering, a member of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic party, allied with Civic Platform and Peasants' Party in the European Parliament.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union's executive arm, said he was confident of ''fruitful cooperation'' with the next government.

The Platform plans to bring home some 900 troops from the US-led force in Iraq and may bargain hard with Washington over US plans to set up a missile defence site in Poland, vehemently opposed by neighbouring Russia.

REUTERS AE RAI2150

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