Thursday

22nd Feb 2024

Poland's EU-battles to continue as Duda wins tight vote

  • Andrzej Duda wins crucial presidential election, consolidating the dominance of the ruling conservative-nationalist PiS party (Photo: 41WHC UNESCO)

Conservative-nationalist Andrzej Duda has been re-elected as Poland's president, in a knife-edge election battle with the pro-European, centre-right Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski that split the country in two.

Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, won 51.21 percent of the votes with Trzaskowski receiving 48.79 percent, according to unofficial results by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) released on Monday (11 July) morning.

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After Sunday's vote, which saw the highest voter-turnout - close to 70 percent - since the fall of communism 30 years ago, both Duda and Trzaskowski declared victory.

Trzaskowski's team has said they are looking into irregularities, such as Poles abroad, whose votes could have been decisive and largely pro-Trzaskowski, and who allegedly did not receive their voting packages in time.

The election could still be contested at the Supreme Court, which would put the spotlight on Poland's judiciary - whose independence has already been compromised by the government, according to an EU probe.

Duda's victory gives the PiS government continued control over the main political institutions, allowing it to further erode judicial independence and political checks and balances, and continue its battles with the EU.

"This situation favours Andrzej Duda: not just because he's slightly in the lead, but also because most of the country's institutions have, over the past five years, become highly politicised and subordinated to the ruling party," Piotr Buras and Pawel Zerka of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in a statement, adding: "This includes the Supreme Court, which is the one that will announce the final result of the election."

"The dominance of the ruling party Law and Justice would remain almost unrestricted," they said.

Duda's win, if confirmed, "would lead to further deterioration of the rule of law in Poland, pave the way for a complete state capture by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and let it dismantle the country's already damaged system of checks and balances – in a similar way that already happened in Hungary," their analysis said.

The election was vital for Poland's future and its relationship with Europe.

A former MEP, 48-year-old Trzaskowski campaigned on reversing the democratic backsliding with the presidential veto power, and restoring balance in the political landscape.

Split country

The vote has also shed light on deep divisions in Polish society, with voters in the eastern part of the country, over 50-years old, and mainly from rural areas, supporting Duda.

Duda's win comes as PiS has dominated the public media and the state administration ahead of the election.

In the past few weeks, Duda's allies accused Germany of creating discord through media outlets viewed as independent but co-owned by German companies.

PiS politicians also accused Trzaskowski of not having a "Polish soul" or "Polish heart" for being open to a discussion on Jewish restitution of property lost during World War II, and other public media suggested Trzaskowski would be controlled by Jewish interests.

Duda pledged to defend "family values" and fight "LGBT-ideology" in a campaign filled with homophobic rhetoric.

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