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Jul 13, 2020

News | Europe | Poland: Polish president Duda squeaks a second term, electoral commission says

Loveday Morris

Poland’s populist president Andrzej Duda has won a second term, the country’s electoral commission said on Monday after counting the vast majority of votes in a tightly fought runoff against the liberal mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski.

Duda — an ally of President Trump — had won 51.2 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, the commission said after counting 99.97 percent of the ballots. The commission said the remainder of the votes were unlikely to change the outcome. The turnout was a record high of 68.1 percent.

The results will likely help Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party continue its hard-line policies, including efforts to force out independent judges, which have drawn rebukes from the European Union and human rights groups over the past five years.
It is a blow to liberals who had hoped a Trzaskowski victory could bring a stunning change in Polish politics, allowing the pro-European Trzaskowski to veto laws passed by the right-wing government, which holds a majority in the lower house of Parliament. Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, has vowed to return Poland to E.U. standards on the rule of law.

Both candidates expressed optimism Sunday that they had won the election.
“It shows that [Polish] democracy is vibrant,” Pawel Zerka, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations noted after the exit polls on Sunday. “But it’s also bad news, because it shows to what extent the society is really divided into tribes or camps. It is neatly divided in half.”
Duda came in first during the initial round of voting last month, but he failed to secure the majority he needed to avoid a runoff with Trzaskowski, whose approval ratings have jumped since he entered the race in May.

Duda, who during the campaign suggested that efforts to advance LGBT rights were worse than communism, vowed Friday to strengthen the Polish state, which he said was “built on our inviolable and sacred tradition.” Duda’s campaign sought to highlight efforts by the ruling Law and Justice party to narrow inequality by expanding social benefits, which has mainly helped poorer voters in rural areas that are right-wing strongholds.

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