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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
Polish election fever grips Britain
By Claire Marshall
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

Polish workers bound for Britain
Many thousands of Polish people now live in the UK
Election fever is in the air, the campaigning is underway - but this isn't about the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

This is about the election in Poland on 21 October. Britain is now a key battleground.

"I feel at home here," says Donald Tusk, the leader of Poland's main opposition party, as he hit the campaign trail in west London last week.

It's a neck and neck race to be the next Polish prime minister. Every vote in every constituency, including England, matters.

The picture of Polish nationals living in the UK has changed dramatically over the last few years. An estimated 850,000 now reside in the country.

When elections were last held in Poland just two years ago, there were only two places in the UK that they could vote. Both of them were in London.

'Big challenge'

This time, 20 polling booths have been set up across the UK.

Janusz Wach, the Polish Consul General in London, says the aim was to ensure that no one has to travel more than 80 miles to cast their ballot.

People give their lives to have the right to vote
Polish voter

He says since the registration system had been set up last week, around 2,000 voters had been signing up each day.

"It will be a big challenge if everyone votes," he acknowledges. "But it's difficult to say how many will turn up on the day."

Outside the consulate in central London was a queue of around a dozen Poles.

One young mother, rocking her child in a pushchair, told the BBC: "In my country it's not any good any more.

"I have been living here for about four years now, I just want to know what's going on in England. I have a council flat. For me, life is better here".

Voter opinions

Another older lady says: "I am going to vote because it is a great privilege. People give their lives to have the right to vote."

Another man explains he wouldn't vote because: "There are so many liars in Poland.

"We can't trust these people. There isn't a good choice for us."

His wife, carrying their baby, says she agreed: "For the same reasons."

Whatever the interest level, the canvassing and organising is gathering pace.

This weekend, representatives from four political parties in Poland will jet in to London to take part in a live debate on Polish Radio London.

Cooltura, the most popular Polish language magazine in the UK, which has a print run of around 35,000 copies a week, contains in its latest edition a voter registration form and the addresses of all the polling stations.

And the headline on its front cover? "Battle for Britain".



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Polish nationals living in the UK give their views



SEE ALSO
Country profile: Poland
23 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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