Polish elections take place as exit poll gives Andrzej Duda a tiny head start | News from the world

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The hotly contested and intensely polarizing Polish presidential elections fell into the fray. A poll showed that outgoing president Andrzej Duda led his liberal opponent Rafał Trzaskowski by less than one percentage point, to 50.4 % to 49.6%.The numbers were well within the 2% margin of error of the survey, which means that the result was still pending on Sunday evening. Results are expected to come gradually overnight, with final totals expected Monday morning.

The result is considered crucial for the future orientation of Poland and its relations with the rest of Europe. Duda is allied with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and a victory for him would give PiS control of most levers of power for several years, allowing him to pursue a program that has eroded the rule of law and Justice. independence, putting Poland on a collision course with the EU.

If Trzaskowski wins, he can use the presidential veto to thwart the PiS legislative agenda, and will portray a more liberal and pro-EU face of Poland to the outside world.

The two 48-year-old men emerged from the first round of 11 candidates, all men. Duda won 43.5% of the first vote while Trzaskowski obtained 30.5%, but most polls have suggested that the second round would be a very close call.

The 5 p.m. turnout was 52%, about four points higher than at the same time in the first round. It increased more in small towns, which have always favored Duda, but there were also more than half a million voters who had registered to vote abroad, a record number. Of these, 180,000 in the UK, where voters rushed to return the ballots on time because in-person voting was not allowed.

Less than 150,000 votes separate the two candidates, which means that the votes cast by Poles living in Great Britain could play a decisive role. Trzaskowski won more than twice as many votes from abroad as Duda in the first round a fortnight ago.

Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, said it was the last chance to reverse the democratic setback that has taken place in the past five years of the PiS government. “It’s now or never,” he said last week. Either the ruling party “will continue to destroy independent institutions, will try to further politicize the courts, destroy local governments and threaten media freedom, or we will have a democratic state in which the president restores balance,” he said. he declares.

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński also described the election as “a battle for the future of Poland”, echoing a theme that has been played in government media suggesting that Trzaskowski is beholden to dark foreign interests.

Duda has presented himself as a president who has improved the country’s economy over the past five years, but he has also pledged to defend “family values” at the expense of LGBT rights. His campaign was filled with homophobic rhetoric, as he made the fight against the so-called “LGBT ideology” one of his main topics of discussion.

This combination of right-wing social and cultural policies with an increase in state disbursements has proven to be a winning combination for PiS in small towns and villages in recent years.

Many progressive voters have expressed fears for their own future if Duda were re-elected. “I voted for Trzaskowski out of political conviction,” said Aleksandra, a 30-year-old voter in Piaseczno, a satellite city south of Warsaw. “I want equality, I don’t want to feel like some people are worse than others. I will see what the result will be, but I have already considered leaving the country and maybe after this election I will go. ”

The election was to take place in May, when Duda was leading the election and was expected to win easily. However, with the coronavirus restrictions in place, plans for a full postal vote were abandoned a few days before the election as impossible to implement.

Poland has experienced 37,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,600 deaths, but restrictions have been largely relaxed in recent weeks. Sunday voters were required to wear masks and gloves and maintain social distance.

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