Incumbent President Andrzej Duda took the lead in the first round of the presidential election in Poland on June 28 and will meet the liberal opposition’s Rafal Trzaskowski in the run-off in two weeks time, an exit poll showed.
Duda won 41.8% of the vote versus Trzaskowski’s 30.4%, the exit poll by Ipsos showed. The turnout was 62.9%, a record high in the first round of a presidential election.
“I want to thank everyone for voting,” Duda said following the announcement of the exit poll’s results. The president also congratulated other candidates, including Trzaskowski. The supporting crowd began booing upon hearing the latter’s name.
In an indication that the run-off vote in two weeks is too important for the campaign to pause even briefly on an election Sunday, Duda set off to a late evening campaign rally in the town of Strzelce
“With a result like this, we can now begin the fight for Poland,” Trzaskowski told his supporters.
The exit poll’s results are mostly in line with what the polls suggested in the run-up to the pivotal vote. The stakes are high: Duda’s losing in the run-off on July 12 would mark the end of the nearly unchallenged rule of Law and Justice (PiS), which made him president in 2015.
Without a friendly president, PiS will struggle to carry out their agenda as the ruling party lacks a majority in the parliament to overturn presidential vetoes, a prerogative that Trzaskowski is expected to use to wreak havoc in the ruling camp.
Duda’s challenge will now be to keep his core electorate mobilised and at the same time appeal to voters outside of it.
That might prove tricky. Polls have begun suggesting in recent weeks that it is Trzaskowski who might be able to reach deeper and sway voters of other opposition candidates in his favour more easily.
It could be voters of the far-right Konfederacja party and those of the non-partisan independent candidate Szymon Holownia that decide the run-off.
Holownia came in third with 12.2% of the vote while the far right’s Krzysztof Bosak was fourth at 7.4%.
“I’d like to thank Krzysztof Bosak and his voters. When it comes to economic freedom, we’re largely of the same mind,” Trzaskowski’s campaign said on Twitter.
“There’s very little that separates me and Krzysztof Bosak in what we think is important for Poland and how Poland should be represented,” Duda said.
Duda and Trzaskowski also appealed to the voters of other candidates in their election night speeches. Getting the votes from groups as diverse as Konfederacja and the Left will certainly be challenging.
The Left’s Robert Biedron achieved a hugely disappointing result of just 2.9%. The Polish People’s Party’s Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz came in at 2.6%. Other candidates did not rise above 0.5%.
In the next two weeks of what is shaping up to be the most brutal campaign of the last three decades in Poland, Duda will underline he is the guarantor of PiS’s social spending programmes.
Trzaskowski will likely hit at PiS’ handling of the coronavirus crisis and the resulting economic meltdown – even though it is Europe’s mildest – as well as posit himself as a counterbalance to PiS’s heavy-handed rule that resulted in the subjugation of courts and the public media.