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Cablegate: Polish Opposition Running Strong in Urban Areas

VZCZCXRO4834
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHWR #2372 3131548
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091548Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2406
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKW/AMCONSUL KRAKOW PRIORITY 1388

UNCLAS WARSAW 002372

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PL
SUBJECT: POLISH OPPOSITION RUNNING STRONG IN URBAN AREAS

REF: A. WARSAW 2322
B. KRAKOW 254

1. In the final days before Poles vote in local and regional
elections, opposition candidates are poised to capture a
majority of Polish cities and are running ahead of the ruling
Law and Justice Party (PiS) in regional assemblies (sejmiks).
With multiple candidates running in most mayoral races,
runoffs are likely in a majority of cities, most notably
Warsaw. As reported in reftels, the Warsaw race is viewed
locally as a referendum on the Kaczynskis, whereas in most
cities local personalities and issues dominate. Latest polls
in Warsaw show a tight race between former PM Kazimierz
Marcinkiewicz and Civic Platform's (PO's) Hanna
Gronkiewicz-Waltz, with the United Left polling strongly
enough to force a run-off in two weeks. In that run-off,
Gronkiewicz-Waltz holds a slender lead.

Polska A Opts for the Opposition
--------------------------------

2. Like the red-blue divide so widely discussed in American
politics, Polish cities are often lumped together as "Polska
A," leaning disproportionately to the centrist opposition.
Except for Marcinkiewicz in Warsaw, and incumbent mayor Jerzy
Kropiwnicki in Lodz (Poland's second largest city), both of
whom are backed by PiS, candidates backed by PO and United
Left are running ahead in every other major urban area. Of
the dozen largest cities in Poland, only two candidates -- in
Wroclaw in the southwest, and in Gydinia in the north -- are
expected to win a majority and thus avoid a runoff.

3. The polarization that figures so prominently on the
national political stage is much more muted in local races.
In Wroclaw, incumbent mayor Rafal Dutkiewicz unusually has
the endorsement of PiS, PO and the United Left, and oversees
a city council with a working PiS-PO coalition that is
unfathomable elsewhere. Nonetheless, the long arm of
national politics can be felt in some races. In Szczecin, on
the German border, former PiS Minister of Finance, Teresa
Lubinska, is running third in a tough race behind PO and
United Left candidates. Although widely recognized as a PiS
politician, Lubinska's billboards shout "independent," in
huge letters, with the PiS logo relegated to the corner.
Lubinska's campaign materials feature endorsements from
Marcinkiewicz (whose doctoral thesis she reviewed at the
University of Szczecin) and former FM Wladyslaw Bartoszewski,
who is not a member of PiS. Notably absent is PM Jaroslaw
Kaczynski, in whose Chancellery Lubinska nominally works.

Influence of Party Blocs is Minimal in Mayoral Races
--------------------------------------------- -------

4. The elections this Sunday got the final green light
November 3 when the Constitutional Tribunal's ruled the new
local election law constitutional. The most controversial
aspect of that law permits political blocs between parties,
and provides for the distribution of votes for parties that
fall below the parliamentary threshold among larger parties
with which they are blocked. This will likely play a role in
rural areas that are historically supportive of the League of
Polish Families, Samoobrona (both blocked with PiS) and the
Polish Peasant's Party (blocked with PO). In urban areas,
the blocking effect will be minimal. In Szczecin, for
instance, Lubinska's campaign manager pointedly asked poloff
to ask Samoobrona's candidate, Mateusz Piskorski, to throw
his support to Lubinska in a second round. Reflecting the
fragile state of the ruling coalition, when we asked
Piskorski whether he would do so, he shrugged his shoulders
and said "why should I do that?" He said he would likelier
vote for the United Left candidate, who is a well known and
highly regarded local politician, and a former member of the
SLD government.

5. Comment: All eyes will be on Warsaw when the opposition
and PiS will be poised to claim a "historic victory." If
Marcinkiewicz prevails, PiS will highlight PO's unexpected
losses last year and failure to win the critical race this
year. If Gronkiewicz-Waltz wins, PO will claim their victory
is a rebuke of the Kaczynski government. End Comment.
ASHE

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