Today, Poles will head to the polls for the first round of their Presidential election. The election was supposed to be in May but was pushed back due to COVID-19. Incumbent President Andrzej Duda is seeking a second term in that office. Duda worked for the late Lech Kaczyński, who was President of Poland until his death in 2010. He served in the Sejm before winning the office in 2015 against Bronisław Komorowski. He is supported by Poland’s governing United Right coalition. Current polling seems to suggest that he will be pushed into a runoff in two weeks’ time – and this is where the surprise has arrived.
In the last few years, Poland has had a crisis of judicial independence. The current Law and Justice Government (PiS) has tried to pack the Polish Supreme Court with judges more favorable to the Government. Additionally, the Government has gotten involved in the state media editorial process. Both of these actions have lead to condemnation in both Poland and Europe.
The main challenger, Rafał Trzaskowski, along with the other opposition candidates in the race, have pledged to use the office of the Presidency as a way to uphold the separation of the branches of Government. President Duda has argued that he has kept the separation by pointing to his vetoes of the more extreme judicial reforms.
Since COVID restrictions were lifted, President Duda’s lead has dropped and in runoff scenarios, he’s either barely ahead or losing in the runoff scenarios. As a result, Duda has begun attacking LGBT people on all fronts as a way to recover his polling with Catholics. His allies have also attacked Trzaskoswki’s strong connection with the Jewish community due to the controversial Polish law that states that Poland had no part in the Holocaust.
The Main Challenger
The main challenger to Duda’s job is someone who came out of nowhere. Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski only entered the race after the original Civic Platform (PO) candidate Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska dropped out. Trzaskowksi has run what could be called a compassionate conservative campaign. He’s called for lower taxes, more money in schools, more social funding, and closer relations with Europe. He is a former Business Minister under Donald Tusk.
The Other Challengers
Several other candidates are running for President of Poland. However, all of them are running distantly behind Duda and Trzaskowski. The candidates ranked by exit polling are:
- Szymon Hołownia: Independent and journalist. Former host of Mam talent!, the Polish version of Got Talent.
- Krzysztof Bosak: Confederation Liberty and Independence candidate. Critical of the current government and wants a return to Christian values. Far-right candidate.
- Robert Biedroń: Leader of the Spring Party and current Member of the European Parliament. Former Mayor of Slupsk. First-ever gay person to run for the Presidency in Poland. A candidate of Poland’s left.
- Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz: Leader of the agrarian, Christian democratic Polish People’s Party (PSL). Former Labour and Social Policy Minister under the PO government.
Should Duda lose, it could be a sign that Law and Justice have reached some limits of its control. Should Trzaskoswki win, it could mean that Poland has embraced a bit of a new path in terms of it sees itself. This election could create a new path of how to win in Eastern Europe. If no candidate achieves 50%, as it appears likely to happen, the race will go to a runoff on July 12.