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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Poland's Ruling Party Loses Big in Election

WARSAW -- Poland's pro-business Civic Platform party turned on Monday from campaigning to forming a government that would seek lower taxes and better relations with the rest of Europe, after decisively defeating Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in parliamentary elections.

With 99 percent of results in, Civic Platform led with 41.4 percent and a projected 209 seats in the 460-seat lower house of the parliament. Kaczynski's Law and Justice party trailed with 32.2 percent and 166 seats.

Turnout was 53.8 percent, higher than any parliamentary elections since the 1989 fall of communism, a sign of the passionate debate about Poland's overall direction and place in Europe during the campaign. Two years ago, when Law and Justice defeated Civic Platform, turnout was 40.57 percent.

Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk, who as leader of the party with the most votes is the presumptive next prime minister, wants to turn Poland away from Kaczynski's focus on rooting out former Communists and toward seizing the economic opportunities that come with membership in the European Union, which Poland joined in 2004.

He also wants to bring Poland's 900 troops home from Iraq and push for more rewards for Poland in return for hosting a U.S. missile defense base aimed at stopping potential attacks from Iran.

Tusk said the new parliament would meet Nov. 5 "and only then serious talks about the political future will be possible."

"I now have to go to the hospital to tell my mother that we were able to win the elections," he said after a party meeting on the next steps to form a government. Another party official, Bogdan Zdrojewski, said the party's national council would meet Nov. 10 to decide on potential coalitions.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Kaczynski's twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, has the job of nominating his brother's replacement. President Kaczynski remains in office with a term lasting until 2010 and could make life awkward for the new government by exercising his veto -- although the twins' party no longer has enough votes to uphold Lech Kaczynski's vetoes on its own.

Civic Platform wants to cap the increase in government spending and run smaller deficits, a step that would bring Poland toward to joining the euro currency. Tusk's top economic adviser, Zbigniew Chlebowski, said the party would seek to link the zloty currency in a 15 percent trading band with the euro in 2009, a necessary test of monetary stability before joining.

Kaczynski also supported joining the euro, but was in less of a hurry and favored more government spending and social welfare benefits. His defeat appeared to be a verdict by younger, European-oriented Poles against his assertive stance toward Europe and his focus on purging the demons of the past by barring former Communists from public life.

Kaczynski clashed with the EU on a number of issues, including Polish voting strength, a proposal to build a highway through a protected peat bog and the death penalty.