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Poland's first primary campaign: everybody wins?

The party will come out ahead in contest between Sikorski and Komorowski.

Most of the party's parliamentary members and senior officials support Komorowski. Sikorski only joined the party after the 2005 elections; before that he was allied with Civic Platform's right-wing rivals in the Law and Justice party, whom he had served as minister of defense. Opinion polls seem to indicate that Komorowski also has more support among the party rank-and-file, although Sikorski does better among younger members and those who recently joined the party.

Sikorski was on an upward trajectory before a recent attack against President Kaczynski that was so far out of line the foreign minister later apologized. In a speech to the party faithful, Sikorski made fun of the diminutive president's height and tossed in a sly reference to past accusations that the president is an occasional tippler.

Despite the occasional hiccup, the campaign has been an enormous public relations coup for Civic Platform. The primary election has sucked out all the media oxygen for candidates from rival parties.

“This is great,” said a Civic Platform member of parliament who supports Komorowski. “All voters are talking about is Sikorski and Komorowski. People in my district are acting as if the primary will decide the final results of the presidential election.”

The opposition parties are enormously jealous that they did not come up with the idea first. Witold Waszczykowski, a senior advisor to President Kaczynski, is threatening to take Civic Platform to court because he says the primary is violating election rules by beginning campaigning too early.

“What they're doing is really unfair,” he complained.

Opinion polls show that Kaczynski has very little chance of winning re-election. He has spent much of his presidency in lock-step with his controversial twin brother, the combative leader of Law and Justice and a former prime minister, and is not seen as someone who rises above party politics, as is the tradition with Polish presidents.

Poland's unexpected primary has proved to be such a success that other parties are likely to adopt it for the next presidential election in five years, with the process becoming more open and more democratic. All that is left is for Poland to move into a U.S.-style permanent election cycle.