TORONTO - It will be the most closely watched European election in recent years. Poland, a country in a conservative-liberal divide, will cast their vote in the country’s presidential election this Sunday July 12th. The repercussions will also be watched closely by the Diaspora in Toronto.
Incumbent President, Andrzej Duda, who failed to garner the necessary 50% of the vote in the first round of the election on June 28, will face off with liberal challenger Rafał Trzaskowski, the current Mayor of Warsaw.
The elections were originally scheduled to take place in May when Duda was favoured to win. The Covid-19 pandemic prompted the Government to postpone the vote until late June.
Duda still garnered a hefty 43.5% of the vote, but not enough to completely overcome his main challenger, Rafal Trzaskowski, who received 30.5% in the first round. The two are now in a race to win the support of those voters – the remaining 26% - who backed the other nine candidates.
Duda has the support of voters who have a more traditional view on cultural, social and moral issues and he is popular among the “more mature” suburban and rural demographic, whose views are shaped by a context that sees a more vibrant role for policies “made in Poland” and based on family values.
Poland is one of the most religious countries in Europe. With a population near 38 million, an overwhelming majority (roughly 87%) are Roman-Catholic. It is fair to say that the prevailing ethic of its political system is rooted in the Catholic ethic.
Over the past five years, the ruling party – Andrezj Duda’s Law and Justice (PiS), improved the lives of many Poles with social and cultural policies, generous welfare programs and child support payments.
However, Duda’s campaign for re-election has not come without controversy. As the Brits and the Italians before him in the last five years, he has proposed constitutional reform, triggering anti-Europe sentiments and deviating public opinion from his positive achievements.
His rival Trzaskowski, has squeezed into the breach with plans to repair relations with the EU and to stop the erosion of judicial independence witnessed under the administration of the PiS party.
Duda’s campaign countered with a promise to “defend children from LGBTQ ideology” and on Monday, he formally proposed to amend the constitution to ban LGBTQ couples from adopting children.
It is a toughly worded campaign. These are vocabularies virtually exorcised from Canada’s sanitized political discourse.
Trzaskowski may be open to the idea of same-sex partnerships, and he defends gay rights. However, he told journalists this past Saturday that he is “against same-sex adoptions”, and, “on this particular topic, I am with the President”.
His liberal Civic Coalition (KO), is popular among the younger urban generation. He has made promises to use his presidential power to veto much of the PiS legislative agenda, unless the ruling party would agree to major compromises.
Numerous polls suggest that this Sunday’s vote will be a close one. A series of polls by Warsaw-based political scientist Ben Stanley suggests the gap between both candidates has narrowed considerably.
As an indication of how small the world has become, Sunday’s election will be followed by many Polish Canadians here in Canada, over a million strong. The final outcome will resonate far beyond Poland’s borders. Some Trustees at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, wrestling with some of the same issues, will be paying close attention.