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Poland’s nativist President Andrzej Duda has won the presidential election, beating centre-right mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski in the run-off vote on Sunday, results from nearly 100% precincts showed on July 13.
Duda won 51.14% of the votes versus Trzaskowski’s 48.86%. Turnout was 68.12%, the second-highest in the history of Poland’s presidential contests after 1990. Just under 500,000 votes separated the rivals with over 10.4mn Poles supporting Duda while 9.9mn voted Trzaskowski.
Duda’s victory is now expected to pave the way for the ruling right-wing coalition, led by Law and Justice (PiS), to continue with its reformist – if hugely controversial and divisive – agenda.
In his marginally unsuccessful campaign, Trzaskowski – fielded by Poland’s biggest opposition party, Civic Platform (PO) - accentuated change and counterbalancing PiS.
PiS’s overhauling of Poland’s judiciary, targeting the LGBT people and migrants in daily as well as campaign trail rhetoric, the party’s subservience to Catholic Church, or widespread nepotism, have long stoked divisions in the society.
The ruling party also appears likely to get back on the collision course with the EU. The European Commission is investigating the reform of the judiciary, as Brussels says it putting the courts under the direct political control of the government.
The ruling party’s complete control of the state media – which ran an unwavering campaign of support for Duda while attacking Trzaskowski for being alleged agent of foreign interests - has also contributed to acrimony. Duda might attempt to lessen that although there is little from his first term in office to consider that a likely scenario.
Instead, the uncontrollable part of the media – with significant foreign ownership of some – is a problem that needs attention, PiS’s functionaries have long said. The criticism increased in the wake of unflattering coverage of the government and Duda by US-owned broadcaster TVN and partly German-owned tabloid Fakt.
Duda struck a conciliatory note in statements following the early results of the vote, based on an exit poll, which initially showed the president was only 0.8pp ahead of Trzaskowski.
The president called for creating a “coalition of Polish matters,” a movement, he said, of “politicians of different options and people who support them.”
“Let’s support each other if values like family, our Polish community, our culture, traditions, history, heroism, and pride are important to us,” Duda said.
The opposition was quick to lambast those words as lacking credibility after a campaign in which Duda attacked the LGBT Poles or independent media.
Duda secures reelection at a difficult time for the Polish economy. Poland’s GDP is expected to sink around 4% in 2020 in the aftermath of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The president and the PiS government are taking credit, however, for the pandemic not having damaged life in Poland to the extent seen in Italy or the UK.
With Duda at the helm for another five years, PiS’ power remains largely unchallenged, bar for the Senate, where the opposition holds a tiny minority. The opposition now has three years before the next general election in which it might attempt to win back a parliamentary majority and set up a two-year period of governing with hostile Duda, who will remain in office until 2025.
The final result of the election could still change once all the votes have been counted but the change will not be significant.
“[The] difference is large enough that we have to accept the result,” Grzegorz Schetyna, the former head of Poland’s opposition Civic Platform (PO) party and member of parliament told opposition-leaning private broadcaster TVN24 on Monday.
PO’s officials had earlier flagged a possibility of irregularities in the vote, especially in polling stations abroad.
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