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Polish leader debates challenger ahead of weekend elections

October 19, 2015

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s pro-business prime minister faced off Monday against her main challenger in a debate ahead of general elections this weekend — the first time two women are the top two contenders to lead the country.

The debate took place Monday evening between Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz of the pro-European Civic Platform party and Beata Szydlo of the conservative and populist Law and Justice party, which is leading in the polls.

Two more debates are planned this week that will involve the heads of several other parties, all of which are small and do not have the chance of winning the parliamentary elections being held Sunday, but which could serve as coalition partners to the bigger parties.

The debate focused on economic matters and a range of other issues that reveal the deep differences between the two parties, which are both rooted in the Solidarity movement that fought communism but which have very different profiles today.

Civic Platform, which was led by Donald Tusk until he became the European Union president last year, is a centrist and pro-market party that has governed for the past eight years. It has lost a lot of support and is now second in the polls due to general voter weariness and disgust with scandals in the government ranks.

Law and Justice is a socially conservative party that favors a strong state role in the economy to help struggling Poles and even out economic inequalities. It also promotes Roman Catholic values and is against in vitro fertilization and gay unions.

During the debate, Kopacz said a victory by Law and Justice would threaten Poland’s finances and lead to a crisis similar to that in cash-strapped Greece.

Kopacz lashed out against Szydlo, a lawmaker, for having voted against women’s rights, and claimed a victory by her party would result in Poland becoming a fundamentalist religious state.

Szydlo, in turn, accused the current government of being corrupt and ineffective and said it has failed to fight for Polish interests in Europe.

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