Polish elections: Andrzej Duda’s victory gives free rein to populists | News from the world

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The populists in power in Poland have been given complete freedom in their mission to reshape the country after Liberal hopes for the presidency were dashed in a narrow defeat following a campaign of division.President-in-Office Andrzej Duda was elected for a new five-year term when a familiar set of demographic divisions played out during the vote. Poles under the age of 50 and those living in big cities supported the liberal challenger, Rafał Trzaskowski, while elderly and rural voters stood by Duda.

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.







Rafał Trzaskowski at a press conference in Warsaw. Photography: Paweł Supernak / EPA

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.

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