Main Polish opposition party picks presidential candidate

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s main opposition party, the centrist Civic Platform, chose deputy parliament speaker Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska as its presidential candidate on Saturday.

Kidawa-Blonska will face the popular conservative incumbent, President Andrzej Duda, as well as candidates with smaller parties in the election expected to be held in the first half of next year.

“I will be the president of all Poles,” she declared to party members after a secret vote in which 700 delegates chose her over Poznan Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak.

Kidawa-Blonska was the opposition’s candidate for prime minister in a parliamentary election in October. The party lost to the ruling Law and Justice party.

Civic Platform led Poland from 2007 to 2015, most of that time with Donald Tusk as prime minister before he left to become the European Union leader. The party oversaw economic expansion and even guided the country through the financial crisis of 2008 without Poland’s economy falling into recession.

But voters grew tired of its heavily pro-market policies, which had also allowed inequalities to grow, and booted it out in favor of a populist party that has expanded the welfare state.

Kidawa-Blonska is seen as a moderate politician with patriotic credentials. She is the great-granddaughter of a pre-World War II president, Stanislaw Wojciechowski, and a prime minister, Wladyslaw Grabski.

In a separate political development Saturday, two left-wing parties, the Democratic Left Alliance and Spring, joined forces to create a new party called New Left. They seek to strengthen the position of the political left in the ex-communist nation that today leans heavily to the right.

And the head of the agrarian Polish People’s Party, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, announced he was running too.

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