Poland's Komorowski visits London on election campaign

2nd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Poland's acting president Bronislaw Komorowski took the election campaign trail to London on Wednesday in a bid to woo the big Polish community in Britain.

Komorowski is trying to repeat the success of 2007, when expats here heavily backed his liberal Civic Platform (PO) party, helping it to victory in the last parliamentary elections.

Estimates on the number of Poles in Britain range from around 500,000 to one million -- half of whom live in the London area, according to some Polish sources.

Numbers surged after Britain opened its labour market when Poland joined the European Union in 2004.

Komorowski is leading opinion polls ahead of the snap June 20 presidential election, triggered by the death of president Lech Kaczynski.

He was among 96 Polish dignitaries killed in an April 10 air crash in Russia en route to ceremonies commemorating the World War II massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet Union in Katyn.

Komorowski, as the speaker of parliament, became acting president after Kaczynski's death.

His visit to London started with visits to lay flowers at the Katyn memorial in Gunnersbury and the Polish air force memorial at Northolt.

The 57-year-old then lunched with Polish expatriate journalists and appeared on Polish Radio London before a photo opportunity at a Polish bakery in Wembley, where he sampled the loaves.

"If the Polish economy keeps developing at its current pace, many Poles will return home," he told PRL, adding that he wanted Poland to catch up with the EU's leading economies.

Poland was the only member of the 27-nation EU to achieve economic growth in 2009, when its output expanded by 1.8 percent compared with the previous year.

The whirlwind trip also included a public meeting with Polish students and young business people at the London School of Economics.

The Polish embassy told AFP that 45 polling stations were being set up across Britain for the presidential election, with hundreds expected to vote at provincial ones and thousands expected at the eight London stations.

"We are trying to provide as many places to enable as many people to vote as possible," a spokesman said.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the PO leader, visited London, Dublin and Glasgow before the 2007 parliamentary elections that saw him take office.

The party obtained almost 75 percent of the British vote, compared with its overall result of almost 42 percent.

Just over 48,000 British-based Poles signed up to vote.

Komorowski's chief rival is conservative former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the Law and Justice party and the late president's identical twin.

The campaign has been low-key, in the wake of national mourning over the crash and serious flooding which has struck parts of Poland in recent days.

Krzysztof Lisek, a European Parliament member who is coordinating Komorowski's campaign abroad, said the PO candidate was unlikely to make any more election trips.

"But we are still thinking about it, because we've had invitations from Dublin, Paris and from the expatriates in Belgium," he told Poland's PAP news agency.

"But for reasons of time we can rule out a visit to the United States," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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