Tale of 2 Voters: Devout conservative, growth-minded liberal show Polish election contrasts

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When Adam Jerzy Kowalewski steps into a voting booth on Sunday, his choice will be shaped by deep Roman Catholic faith and reverence for his late father, who was tortured by the Germans during World War II for taking part in Poland's anti-Nazi resistance.

Only one party suits the 43-year-old: Law and Justice, a political force that mixes conservative and patriotic values with promises to do more to help the disadvantaged.

He is impressed that party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski's father — like his own father — was part of the anti-Nazi resistance. "Law and Justice is made up of people who love God and who love the country," he said.

Kowalewski, who listens to gospel and other religious music, shares the party's opposition to abortion and homosexuality.

The party's economic proposals are also close to his heart.

Kowalewski is among those Poles who haven't seen their lives improve much despite years of strong economic growth. He works in a travel agency but says that his wages are so low that he struggles to find the 250 zlotys (59 euros, $67) he needs every month for medication for epilepsy and a thyroid problem.

He is convinced that the government of the past eight years, led by the pro-business Civic Platform party, only cares about business people and other elites. He says Civic Platform leaders — including Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and her predecessor Donald Tusk, now the EU president — have done almost nothing to help people like himself.

"They don't see the problems of the people," he said.


Radek Ciszewski has some misgivings about Civic Platform. He thinks the party could have worked for greater tolerance in society — for instance by encouraging an open attitude to refugees and legalizing civil partnerships for gays and straight couples. "I expected more courage," Cieszewski said.

Still, the 41-year-old business consultant says he will cast his ballot for the centrist and free-market party on Sunday, mainly because of the huge economic growth it has overseen in the past years, and which is estimated at 3.5 percent this year. He said its election program "is really fantastic" and would help this ex-communist country continue on its path toward achieving a standard of living comparable to that in Western Europe.

When Civic Platform began to run the country in 2007, per capita GDP in Poland was about 53 percent of the EU average. Now it is nearly 70 percent, a sign to Ciszewski that Poland is on the right track.

Ticking off other successes, he notes that exports have doubled since the party came to power eight years ago, and that unemployment fell from 17 to 10 percent. He is also pleased with the huge improvements in infrastructure, with cities being modernized, and thousands of new day care centers and pre-schools built.

It's progress that he feels in his own life. Ciszewski lives in a village in the Warsaw region. Going by car to the capital used to be a journey of 2½ hours each way on a dangerous two-lane road. Thanks to a new motorway completed in 2013, the trip now takes only about an hour and 20 minutes, and is much safer.

Law and Justice will certainly not get his vote. He has no sympathy for its anti-migrant stance, with party leader Kaczynski recently warning that migrants could carry "parasites and protozoa" to Europe.

"He only said that to get voters on his side," Ciszewski said.