With almost all the ballots counted on Monday, Duda, who was supported by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and led a campaign of homophobic rhetoric, won 51.2% of the vote and Trzaskowski 48.8% . The challenger conceded Monday afternoon.
“Thank you also for the incredible energy that we have managed to unleash together during these few weeks,” wrote Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, on Twitter. In a short speech later, he congratulated Duda and expressed the hope that his second term could be different from the first.
Duda supporters celebrated what they saw as a clear mandate for PiS to continue on a path that had reduced poverty but expressed concern over the threat of democracy. Critics and human rights groups have expressed fears that Duda’s victory will stimulate non-liberal tendencies not only in the country but also in the EU.
PiS clashed with Brussels over rule of law and attacks on the judiciary during its mandate, and the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee will vote on Tuesday on whether the EU should extend its disciplinary process continues against Poland. The EU executive launched an investigation into the rule of law in Poland over four and a half years ago, but the process has slowed as EU member states are divided on how to respond.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who also faced Brussels, marked the re-election of Duda by posting a photo of him shaking hands with the Polish president on Facebook, with graphics of a hand showing a “V” for victory and a Polish flag.
Trzaskowski ran an aggressive campaign, closing the gap in a race that Duda had to win easily before the postponement of the initial vote in May due to the coronavirus pandemic. In recent days there had been a real feeling that the elections could go both ways, and the result left supporters of Trzaskowski deflated.
If he had won, Trzaskowski could have used the presidential veto to thwart much of the PiS legislative agenda. Now, with the next legislative elections until 2023 and the PiS controlling most of the levers of power, the fear is that the PiS will double its strategy for at least the next three years.
An Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe election observer mission said on Monday that the polls had been well organized and that pandemic security measures had been properly applied, but expressed concern a lack of impartiality on public television and by the combative nature of the campaign, and in particular the rhetoric of Duda.
“We were concerned about examples of intolerant rhetoric of a homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic nature, particularly among the presidential campaign and public television,” said Thomas Boserup, head of the monitoring mission. He personally criticized Duda for using homophobic rhetoric.
During the campaign, the government-loyal media stable attacked Trzaskowski as an “extremist” and repeatedly claimed that he was supported by dark foreign forces, or that he would take money from the Poles and would donate it to “Jewish interests.” The media also criticized him for his support for LGBT rights during his time as mayor. Trzaskowski said before the vote that it was “now or never” to stop the PiS, which has governed Poland since 2015.
While some commentators have expressed optimism that so many young Poles have voted for change, others have warned that PiS could intensify its xenophobic rhetoric. “PiS views the nationalist far right as a greater threat to its majority than the liberals, and will want to send signals to these young nationalist voters,” said Wojciech Przybylski, political analyst.
Bart Staszewski, an LGBT activist who, during the campaign, confronted Duda with photos of LGBT teenagers who committed suicide, wrote on Twitter that there was “no hope of improving the situation of minorities” in the country after the result.
Politicians around the world have been watching the race closely for clues as to what may or may not work in the fight against the populists. In an unusual speech, Donald Trump received Duda in the White House a few days before the vote and congratulated him on doing “great work”.
Trzaskowski carried the hopes of Liberals around the world, responding to a call from Barack Obama in the days before the vote. “Encouraging so many young people, in particular, to mobilize for an open and inclusive Poland at the heart of the European Union,” Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch liberal MEP, wrote on Monday. She said it was “shameful” for a politician to have won an election in Europe in 2020 with “a campaign of homophobic hatred”.