TORONTO - It should have been a relatively “calm” election on economic parity and immigration. Instead the campaign to elect a new President turned out to be the most vigorously contested since the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. With a near-record 68% voter turn-out, Poles re-elected Andrzej Duda in Sunday’s election
According to the National Electoral Commission, with 99.9% of constituencies reporting, Andrzej Duda, garnered 51.2% of the vote, 10,413,094 total votes. His opponent, Rafał Trzaskowski walked away with 48.8% and 9,921,219, in the second round of Poland’s presidential elections.
The election was initially scheduled in May, however, Covid-19 restrictions and concern for public health prompted the government to postpone the vote until June 28. None of the eleven (11) candidates contesting that first round received the necessary 50+% of the vote to win.
A socially conservative Roman Catholic, Duda campaigned openly in defense of the traditional family model of social organization. He did not mince words. His campaign focused predominantly on the protection of Polish families and the Catholic ethic. These are issues that clearly resonate with Poles both locally and abroad, including the Polish Canadian population here in Canada.
His platform changed the vocabulary of the debate on social issues. Pre-campaign, pre Covid-19, he visited in Mississauga’s St. Maximilian Kolbe Polish parish to the delight of appreciative fans. It could not have hurt him at the ballot box. Some 519,000 Poles abroad were eligible to vote on Sunday.
Duda campaigned on promises of a second term replete with an ambitious investment policy and the implementation of international goals based on technological and economic developments – a “Made in Poland” strategy.
Essentially, this was a “more of the same” election for him. Over the previous five years, his party, the PiS had implemented policies that improved the lives of many Polish citizens through social and welfare programs which help lift many Poles out of poverty. Duda’s popularity rose among the more “mature” demographic and those in rural communities.
Not enough to bring him over the top in the first round, when he received 43.5% of the support in a high turn-out election. His opponents argued that another five years under the presidency of Duda and the ruling party PiS would deepen divisions and further weaken both the State and the Presidency.
Duda responded with promises to protect children from “LGBTQ ideology”, and last week proposed amending the Constitution to ban LGBTQ couples from adopting children. The controversial rhetoric may have been a factor in the emerging social rift between the ruling party and LGBTQ communities.
Yet, his opponent, Rafal Trzaskowski, who has taken part in equality marches recently said he is also against the adoption of children by LGBTQ couples. He acknowledged that the PiS had correctly identified income inequality as a problem that needs to be addressed and supports preserving the welfare policies. Despite gaining in popularity among “urban progressives” and liberal minded voters, Trzaskowski failed to garner enough support to win.
Poland has been making great economic advances. It may not yet be in the ranks of the wealthiest nations in the European Union, but it has not put aside the values that helped it survive the troubled decades of the last century. Duda tapped into that Catholic ethic and voters turned out in support of his candidacy in numbers even he could not have expected.
Citing alleged, but unproven, voting irregularities, Trzaskowski’s Chief of staff, Cezary Tomczyk called for an immediate recount of votes.
According to the National Electoral Commission, registered voters for the July 12 elections were well over 29 million, including 519 thousand abroad.