Poland’s Presidential Election to go to second round as incumbent Duda leads

Poland will go to the polls again in a fortnight as the election for a new president goes to a second round. In yesterday’s first round, the incumbent Andrej Duda came top, but fell well short of the 50% needed to win outright. He will face Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski on July 12th.

At the same time, the blowback for Duda’s last minute visit to the United States, which was seen as an endorsement and unwise intervention in the election by President Trump, continues. The Brookings Institution has run an article explaining why a President getting involved in another country’s elections is a bad idea.

In yesterday’s poll, President Duda secured 43.7% of the vote and Mr Trzaskowski 30.3%. Journalist Szymon Hołownia, running as an independent, was the only other candidate to reach double figures. Turnout was around 63%, much higher than the 49% of eligible citizens who voted in the last contest in 2015. The election was originally scheduled for May but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the failure of Parliament to agree an all-postal voting system.

Although not a member of the governing PiS party, President Duda has been endorsed by them and his platform is based on their right wing nationalist programme. Mr Trzaskowski is a member of former governing party Civic Platform and only became the party candidate on May 15th after the original candidate Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska stepped aside having run a lacklustre campaign. His late entry into the contest and rising poll numbers give credence to the idea that the second round could be very close.

UPDATE: The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has just held its press conference to announce its preliminary findings on the election. Bear in mind that this was a small Special Election Assessment Mission consisting of just eight experts and not a full mission able to visit many polling stations.

ODIHR praised the administration of the election saying that despite Covid-19 and the short notice legal changes, the administration was generally good and transparent and the practice of publishing results broken down by polling station is to be praised. But they went on to say that these legal changes had an impact on candidate registration, voting methods, campaign finance, campaign and the resolution of disputes. In addition, a number of previous recommendations have not been acted upon.

The mission reserved its major criticism for the media coverage which it said was polarised and biased. In particular, they said that the state broadcaster TVP failed in its legal duty to provide balanced and impartial coverage. Instead it acted as a campaign vehicle for the incumbent and provided negative portrayals of the main challenger. Some TVP reporting had xenophobic and anti-semitic undertones, the mission said. The National Radio and TV Council – the media regulator – has been too passive and did not actively monitor the coverage of the campaign, they conclude.

The mission also criticised the campaign which it says involved negative rhetoric from the leading candidates and inflamatory spech by the incumbent which was at times xenophobic and homophobic.

You can read the full statement here.