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Cablegate: Incumbents and Opposition Claim Victory in Local

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DE RUEHWR #2389/01 3181457
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P 141457Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2427
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKW/AMCONSUL KRAKOW PRIORITY 1391

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WARSAW 002389

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PL
SUBJECT: INCUMBENTS AND OPPOSITION CLAIM VICTORY IN LOCAL
ELECTIONS

REF: WARSAW 2372 AND PREVIOUS

WARSAW 00002389 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary. Poles voted in municipal and regional elections
nationwide on November 12, with many incumbents sailing to
re-election, and the opposition Civic Platform (PO) running
strong in provincial assemblies. The center piece of the
election, the race for Warsaw mayor, will see a run off on
November 26 between former PM (and Law and Justice (PiS)
candidate) Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and PO's Hanna
Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a former head of the Central Bank. PO's
strong showing in larger cities and regional assemblies
reflects the ongoing polarization of Polish politics, despite
PO claims to have rebuked the Kaczynski government. The
bigger story is the poor showing of PiS's coalition partners,
who may prove more cooperative on the national stage in an
effort to fend off another round of parliamentary elections.
End Summary.

2. Regional elections throughout Poland on November 12
resulted in a wave of support for incumbent mayors and for
the opposition. Fifteen of Poland's 36 largest cities
returned incumbent mayors with over fifty percent, thereby
avoiding a second round run off. Most of these mayors ran
nominally as independents, but have prior affiliation with
the opposition PO. Notably only one of the fifteen, Katowice
mayor Piotr Uszok, ran as an independent but with former
support from PiS.

Run Off in Warsaw on November 26
--------------------------------

3. Run off elections between the top two contenders will be
held in more than twenty cities on November 26. The highest
stakes race will be the Warsaw mayoral run off between PiS
candidate, former PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and PO's Hanna
Gronkiewicz-Waltz. Both candidates are busily wooing support
from United Left (UL) candidate Marek Borowski, who surprised
many by capturing 23.2% of the vote. With his strong third
place finish, Borowski becomes a natural leader of a
rehabilitated UL after the electoral shellacking of the SLD
and Borowski's break-away Social Democrat Party (SdPl) in
last year's national elections. Marcinkiewicz has proposed a
grand coalition in Warsaw between PiS and PO. Polls
currently show a tight race, tipping in favor of PO's
Gronkiewicz-Waltz.

PiS Coalition Partners Are the Big Losers
----------------------------------------

4. PO was quick to claim victory on November 12 when returns
showed that it was beating PiS in the bellweather regional
assembly races. However, the bigger stories are the ongoing
polarization of Polish politics between urban "Polska A" and
rural "Polska B," and the pitiful showing for PiS coalition
partners, Self Defense (SO) and the League of Polish Families
(LPR). Consistent with the electoral results in last year's
national elections, PO ran strongest in cities and regional
assembly races. Given his personal popularity, even
Marcinkiewicz's first-round win in Warsaw cannot be viewed as
a public endorsement of PiS in the capital. PiS did,
however, capture a majority of votes in towns and community
councils. SO polled a feeble fifth place in most races,
eking out the requisite five percent of votes for
representation in the some regional assemblies and larger
town councils. LPR, by contrast, fell well below the
parliamentary threshhold, leading many to speculate that it
will simply be absorbed by PiS. Its candidate for Warsaw
mayor, Wojciech Wierzejski, former leader of LPR's notorious
youth arm, finished behind a joke candidate from the party of
"Bumpkins and Gnomes", with a mere 0.3% of the vote.

5. The Polish Peasants Party (PSL) made a strong fourth
place showing across the country, well ahead of its
performance in the 2005 elections, and easily beating LPR and
SO. In the Mazowiecki province surrounding Warsaw, PSL
nearly topped PO for second place. Voters credited PSL
leader Waldemar Pawlak for statesman-like conduct during the
recent political fracas, when he was approached and summarily
dumped (again) by PM Kaczynski as a possible coalition
partner.

6. Comment: Turnout for regional elections was strong
(45.8%), even higher than last year's national elections,
suggesting that voters were energized by the political
turmoil of the last year. However, PO's strong showing will
likely give PM Kaczynski pause before considering a new
electoral round next Spring. With their dreadful fifth and
sixth place showing, his coalition partners will have no
appetite for snap elections that would freeze them out of
government. PiS efforts to make inroads into the center
right have been successful, with an evolving political scene

WARSAW 00002389 002.2 OF 002


that is dominated by PiS and PO, with the left showing signs
of new life in third place. End Comment.
HILLAS

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