Poland’s long election season comes to an end
President Andrzej Duda on course to win Sunday's first round, but still face a runoff.
The choice facing Polish voters was laid out in stark terms Friday: Do you want more reforms like those that have been pushed through by the Law and Justice (PiS) party?
Delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and with the main opposition party changing candidates part-way through, this unusual — and unusually long — election campaign comes to an end on Sunday.
In a last effort to secure votes, incumbent Andrzej Duda, the candidate of the ruling PiS and the frontrunner, took to small towns and villages while his main rival, Rafał Trzaskowski of the centrist Civic Platform, was in his home base of Warsaw.
Duda — who won the 2015 election mainly thanks to the support of voters in rural areas — stressed that only his reelection would guarantee “stable and consistent policies” such as those enacted by PiS. The party has made controversial changes to the country’s judiciary and media that have caused consternation in Brussels.
The European Commission has launched four legal procedures against Poland over rule of law concerns, and triggered the so-called Article 7 disciplinary process over charges that Warsaw is breaching the bloc’s fundamental values, which, if concluded, could strip the country of its EU voting rights.
Speaking in the southern town of Rybnik on Friday, Duda talked up PiS’ achievements, including its social policies, including financial help for families, children and farmers.
Duda’s chances of reelection were given a big boost when the coronavirus crisis first struck.
“This is what we’re fighting for in this election: to continue working on those Polish issues which took the [country in the] right direction five years ago … to make people’s lives better,” he said.
PiS has a majority in the lower chamber of the Polish parliament and Duda usually approves their reforms. The ruling party is fearful that an opposition president could reject planned laws.
“This is what this election is about: What will Poland be like in the future and for whom it will be? Will Poland be for a wide range of our citizens, for our neighbors … or will it be for a narrow elite, who will thrive at the cost of the rest of society,” he said.
Duda’s chances of reelection were given a big boost when the coronavirus crisis first struck because, as head of state, he was the public face of many emergency measures. He also received twice as much time on state-controlled public television TVP as his rivals in May, according to the station’s own data.
In late March and April, polls showed that he would win the election outright in the first round.
But as lockdown measures were eased, his support has slipped and he has focused his campaign around the message of protecting “traditional family values,” while attacking the LGBTQ community.
This strategy, which worked for PiS in the European election of 2019, hasn’t been a roaring success this time, with Duda’s poll numbers slipping. He’ll be hoping that a trip to Washington this week to meet with President Donald Trump will have provided a last-minute uplift in support. Trump said that Duda “will be very successful” in the upcoming presidential election.
The others ‘have had enough’
Trzaskowski of Civic Platform chose a very different strategy for his campaign’s finale and spoke to supporters in Warsaw, where he has been mayor since 2018.
The main message of his speech — and his whole campaign — was that people “have had enough” of PiS.
“We’ve had enough of the politicians who tell us ‘in the last eight years…,'” he told the crowd next to the royal castle, referring to how long PiS has been in power. “Today we have to speak about the future and the new solidarity.”
Trzaskowski was a late addition to the presidential race — he only entered the campaign in mid-May when his party decided to ditch Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, who was polling badly. Trzaskowski only published his manifesto on Thursday evening, which included a pledge to stop the controversial changes to the judiciary.
For more polling data from across Europe visit Poll of Polls.
According Duda will get around 41 percent of votes and Trzaskowski 26.4 percent. That would mean a run-off, to be held on July 12.
The remaining candidates have little chance of getting to the second round: Independent Szymon Hołownia could get around 10 percent, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz of the Polish Peasants’ Party is on course for 5 percent, with left-winger Robert Biedroń and right-winger Krzysztof Bosak both on 4 percent.