Polish campaign takes on trappings of Clinton in '92 Imitation aids candidate in battling Walesa

election is today

November 19, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WARSAW, Poland -- On an election swing into the Polish countryside imitating Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign bus trip, Alexander Kwasniewski's arm gestures seemed remarkably Clintonesque.

It turned out that Mr. Kwasniewski, the Polish presidential contender and former Communist, not only borrowed the idea of the bus but knowingly copied President Clinton's body language.

"It's not precisely the Clinton style, but we have adapted it to the Polish conditions," said Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the campaign press secretary, who returned from a visit to the United States this year with a suitcase full of presidential debate tapes from Kennedy-Nixon through Bush-Clinton-Perot for Mr. Kwasniewski.

More than any other candidate in Eastern Europe since the end of communism, Mr. Kwasniewski has modeled himself as a media-savvy Western-style politician.

But whether Mr. Kwasniewski's adaptability will be enough to gain him victory today in the election against President Lech Walesa remains unclear. An opinion survey published Friday in the daily Rzeczpospolita suggested that the race was too close to call, with 49.2 percent for Mr. Walesa and 50.8 percent for Mr. Kwasniewski.

Many analysts said they expected Mr. Walesa, who has been waging a ferocious anti-Communist campaign, to pull out a victory by a slim margin. The analysts said they based this assumption on the emotional vein of resentment against 40 years of communism that Mr. Walesa has tapped.

But if enough of the president's supporters stay home because of Mr. Walesa's rambunctious presidency and crude electioneering, Mr. Kwasniewski could prevail.

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