Poland votes after air crash tragedy

Poles vote in a tightly contested election that was forced by the air-crash death of president Lech Kaczynski.

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Poles voted today in an election forced by the air-crash death of the conservative president Lech Kaczynski, in what looks to be a tight race between his bereaved twin and the governing liberals' candidate. Pitting the conservative ex-prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski against the liberal acting president Bronislaw Komorowski, it marks the latest chapter in a bitter power struggle between the two camps. Lech Kaczynski perished on April 10 when Poland's presidential jet crashed in Smolensk, western Russia as it landed for a World War II commemoration. A total of 96 people died, among them his wife, senior politicians and military top brass.

Under the constitution, speaker of parliament Mr Komorowski became acting head of state. Still reeling, Poland was battered in May and June by the worst floods in decades which killed 24 and forced thousands from their homes. "This election began with a tragedy. I hope it will end with a great success for Poland," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said at a rally before a campaign blackout began at midnight last night.

Final opinion polls suggested a close call, with floating voters holding the key. Mr Komorowski's support ranged from 45 to 54 per cent, and Mr Kaczynski's, 42 to 45 per cent. Lech Kaczynski came from behind to beat liberal Donald Tusk, now the prime minister, in the 2005 presidential election. The nation's 31 million voters have until 8pm (6pm GMT) to cast their ballots. * AFP