Lech Walesa rebukes citizens for weak turnout in presidential election

Lech Walesa, Poland's pro-democracy ex-president, said yesterday he was upset at his fellow citizens for weak participation in the first round of the presidential election, as exit polls suggested that only about half of them turned up to cast their votes.

"I am outraged," Walesa, the founder of the anti-communist Solidarity movement and Poland's first democratically elected president, said from outside his home in the Baltic coast city of Gdansk after the first exit polls were released following the vote.

"When we fought for democracy, I thought that fellow citizens would use it," Walesa said, in comments broadcast by state television. "Maybe we should have kept the Soviets, the military police, the batons."

"Maybe it (communism) didn't last long enough."

Walesa's resistance to the communists raised the risk of an invasion by the Soviet Union, which controlled Poland during the Cold War. Soviet troops were also based on Polish territory.

Exit polls showed pro-market lawmaker Donald Tusk ahead of Lech Kaczynski after the day of voting, but neither with the majority needed to avoid a runoff on October, 23.

Voters apparently were punishing the ruling Democratic Left Alliance for the scandals surrounding their rule and unemployment of about 17.8 percent, the highest in the European Union.

Incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former communist who ousted Walesa in 1995 and went on to serve two five-year terms, said the low turnout was "sad" and he did not understand how a nation which is "a master in a fight for democracy" did not take advantage of its freedoms.

Two exit polls showed that only about 50 percent of Poles turned up to vote on this sunny Sunday a turnout figure lower than in any previous presidential elections since the 1989 fall of communism here. Official election results and turnout figures are expected late today, reported AP.

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