Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Polish politics shaken after newcomer wins elections

Conservative newcomer Andrzej Duda has won the presidential elections in Poland stunning the political establishment and setting the scene for cliff-hanger general elections later this year.

Duda, the 43-year old candidate from the opposition Law and Justice Party, won the second round of elections on Sunday (24 May) with 52 percent of the vote according to the latest results.

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  • Duda is considered to be moderately eurosceptic (Photo: Piotr Drabik)

The win breaks the five-year grip of the governing Civic Platform party on both presidential and parliamentary power with Bronislaw Komoworwski, the sitting president, conceding defeat late on Sunday.

With a turnout of around 55 percent, Duda won the majority of votes in the Eastern part of the country which is traditionally more Catholic, nationalistic and eurosceptic.

According to the latest polls from Ipsos research institute, he was most popular among young voters, people with primary education, farmers and pensioners.

The final results are expected on Monday evening.

The political upset represented by Duda's win is illustrated by the fact that when he started his campaign, he was little-known and had only 20 percent support while Komorowski, as a candidate from Civic Platform, enjoyed more than 60 percent of support at the beginning of the political race.

In contrast to Komorowski's campaign, Duda's was energetic and populistic, mainly focused on “the need for change”.

The presidential role is largely ceremonial. The main power is a veto over decisions of parliament and the right to propose legislation.

Duda made several promises during the campaign including on lowering the retirement age – after Civic Platform raised it to 67 years of age in 2012 due to demographic and fiscal challenges - raising the personal tax allowance, lowering taxes for small and medium companies and supporting Swiss franc creditors in repaying their credits.

Duda's presidency will also influence Poland's stance on the European scene, especially if Law and Justice wins parliamentary elections in October which past experience shows is likely.

"This is a common pattern: the sooner the parliamentary election follow presidential election the more likely it is for the same party to win both races," Wojciech Jablonski, political scientist from Warsaw University, told EUobserver.

"If it happens it is going to be a conservative and nationalistic shift in one of the most pro-European countries in EU," Jablonski added.

Duda is considered to be moderately eurosceptic. He thinks that Poland should not follow European mainstream politics which he sees as driven by Germany, but he supports Poland's EU membership.

He believes Polish EU policy should be more “distinct”.

“We shouldn’t agree with decarbonisation which is devastating to Polish energy industry or to hurry with joining eurozone as it will lead to drastic prices increases," he said during the campaign.

That is different to Komorowski who had wanted the country to join the euro in 2016.

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