October 22, 2007
By Associated Press
WARSAW, Oct. 21 -- A pro-business opposition party that wants Poland's troops out of Iraq ousted Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's government in parliamentary elections Sunday, as Poles opted for leadership offering a more cooperative approach to the European Union.
Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party led with 41.1 percent of the vote after 11 percent of the ballots were counted early Monday, and exit polls for TVN24 private television showed the party projected to win 226 seats in the 460-seat Sejm lower house.
That would be short of the 231 needed for a majority -- but close enough for it to join with a smaller party to form a government.
"Today I am the happiest person in the world," a teary-eyed Tusk told supporters. "People in Poland voted today to chose their own fate and have put a great responsibility a great task on our shoulders. We undertake this great responsibility."
Kaczynski conceded defeat late Sunday, saying, "we didn't manage in the face of this unprecedented broad front of attacks," referring to the opposition's campaign.
His Law and Justice party got 31.6 percent of the vote and a projected 156 seats, according to partial results and exit polls. Complete results are expected by Tuesday.
A hard-fought campaign generated voter turnout of 55.3 percent, higher than any parliamentary elections since the fall of communism in 1989, according to an exit survey by the PBS DGA polling institute. Some polling stations ran out of ballots or stayed open longer than scheduled, delaying the release of the first exit polls for hours.
The election result means Poland will no longer have twin brothers holding the two highest offices; Jaroslaw Kaczynski's brother, Lech Kaczynski, will remain the country's president with a term lasting until 2010. The 58-year-olds are former child movie stars who as adults became activists with the Solidarity trade union movement that helped topple communism in 1989.
Both Tusk and Kaczynski favor good relations with the United States, but Tusk has questioned whether Kaczynski's government was bargaining hard enough in negotiations to host 10 U.S. interceptor missiles that the Bush administration says are aimed at stopping potential attacks from Iran.