Conservative Polish president wins 2nd term after tight race
Publish- July 13, 2020, 09:33 PM
AP/UNB - AP/UNB
Incumbent President Andrzej Duda flashes a victory sign in Pultusk, Poland, Sunday, July 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Polish President Andrzej Duda, a conservative who ran a campaign with homophobic and anti-Semitic overtones, narrowly won a second five-year term in a bitterly fought weekend election, defeating the liberal Warsaw mayor, according to a near-complete count of votes.
Duda’s supporters celebrated what they saw as a clear mandate from voters for him and the right-wing ruling party that backs him, Law and Justice, to continue on a path that has reduced poverty but raised concerns that democracy is under threat, reports AP.
Critics and human rights groups expressed concerns that Duda’s victory would boost illiberal tendencies not only at home but also within the EU, which has struggled to halt an erosion of rule of law in Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Zselyke Csaky, an expert on central Europe with the human rights group Freedom House, said Duda’s victory gives the party “essentially free rein” until parliamentary elections in 2023 “to do away with limits on its power and work towards destroying Poland’s independent institutions, such as the judiciary or the media.”
The state electoral commission said Duda had 51.21% of the vote based on a count of votes from 99.97% districts. His opponent, Rafal Trzaskowski, trailed with 48.79% of the vote.
Final results, expected later Monday, could vary slightly, but Duda’s lead appeared unassailable.
The very close race reflected the deep cultural divisions in this European Union nation.
Duda also got an apparent endorsement from U.S. President Donald Trump with a last-minute White House invitation in late June.
Duda’s campaign focused on defending traditional family values in the predominantly Catholic nation of 38 million people, and on preserving social spending policies.
The party’s policies include hugely popular monthly cash bonuses of 500 zlotys ($125) per child to all families irrespective of income. They have helped alleviate poverty in rural regions, and given all families more money to spend.
Duda and the party, both in power since 2015, also solidified support among older Poles by lowering the retirement age and introducing a yearly cash bonus called a “13th pension.”