Polish President Andrzej Duda wins re-election

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TRZASKOWSKI EDGED:
Political analysts said that the close result gave opposition leaders ‘a new beginning’ in a nation ‘split down the middle’ and facing difficulties

Polish President Andrzej Duda has squeezed past Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski to win re-election, official results showed yesterday.

The incumbent won a new five-year term with 51 percent in Sunday’s vote against 49 percent for Trzaskowski, who had promised to improve ties with the EU.

Experts said the result means the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party would face a more confident opposition.

Photo: Bloomberg

“Despite Trzaskowski’s defeat, his strong performance looks like a new beginning, a new dynamic for the opposition,” Andrzej Rychard, a political scientist at Warsaw University, told local media.

“We’re on the cusp of some very significant changes on the Polish political scene,” Rychard said, adding that “Trzaskowski appears poised to lead the opposition.”

The government faces the immediate challenge of dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Poland facing its first recession since the fall of communism three decades ago.

Duda has promised to defend social welfare payments introduced by the PiS government.

“Poland is split down the middle,” said Witold Orlowski, a professor at Warsaw University of Technology Business School, predicting “a very difficult period” ahead.

“On the one hand, even this slim victory is a PiS success and will allow it to continue to govern, at least technically,” Orlowski said. “On the other hand, the social and economic situation will deteriorate and a large part of the electorate will blame the PiS.”

On the foreign policy front, experts said that Duda’s close ties with US President Donald Trump could also spell trouble ahead if the US president fails to win re-election in November.

Duda’s support was particularly strong in rural areas and small towns and in the east of the country, while Trzaskowski has performed well in larger cities and western regions on the border with Germany.

“The result of these elections is a Poland divided in two with a not-so-rosy future, as it will be difficult to ease the division and to restore the relationship between the two sides,” analyst Kazimierz Kik told reporters.

The election had been due to be held in May, but was delayed because of the pandemic.

Four days before the first round, Duda became the first foreign leader to visit the White House since the start of the pandemic and received praise from Trump for doing an “excellent job.”

Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Polish Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro characterized the election as “a clash of two visions of Poland, the white-red and rainbow-colored,” referring to the colors of Poland’s national flag and the symbol most widely used by the LGBT community.

Duda has criticized “LGBT ideology,” likening it to a new form of communist brainwashing and has vowed to change the constitution during his second term to rule out adoptions by same-sex couples.

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