Sejm Marshal Bronislaw Komorowski won the ruling Civic Platform’s presidential primary, the first of its kind in Poland. Mr. Komorowski took 68.5% of the vote, soundly defeating Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. Turnout was a bit of a letdown for party leaders, with only 47.7% of party members casting ballots.
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
PO supporters finally have a presidential candidate to rally around. PM Tusk started floating his candidacy the moment he was sworn in as prime minister in 2007. Although other PO politicians emerged as possibilities, they were always eclipsed by the prime minister. Then Mr. Tusk decided not run after all. It is more than reasonable to assume the PO’s executive council heaved a sigh of relief when the premier announced that PO party members would choose their candidate for president in a U.S.-style primary vote.
The primary killed multiple birds with one stone: (1) It fired up party members, (2) It provided “free” media coverage to the PO and its candidate, and (3) It further strengthened the PO’s image as an innovative party over PiS. Still, more than half of the PO’s membership didn’t bother to turn out. The right wing media close to PiS seized on this, saying the low turnout was proof of the PO’s organizational atrophy and its general weakness.
This may be overstating the case. The PO’s primary turnout was much better than anything that political parties have managed to muster in the U.S., the “home” of presidential primaries. Turnout for primaries was roughly 30% in the 2008 election, which was the second-highest primary participation on record. Therefore the PO’s 47.7% turnout can be considered a good start.