Poland goes to the polls in tight presidential race

In a tight second round, voters in Poland have gone to the polls for presidential elections to pick between the nationalist-leaning conservative incumbent and the liberal mayor of the capital Warsaw, with LGBT rights a key issue. 

A voter casts a ballot during the second round of presidential election at a polling station in Warsaw, Poland, 12 July, 2020.
A voter casts a ballot during the second round of presidential election at a polling station in Warsaw, Poland, 12 July, 2020. REUTERS - KACPER PEMPEL

The future of Poland’s relationship with the European Union is also part of this multi-stake election. Incumbent Andrzej Duda, who allies himself with the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), could push through even more judicial reforms that the EU has flagged as raising more political control over the courts.

He is running against liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaslozski of the pro-EU Civic Platform party (PO), who has become the target of religious conservatives in the majority Catholic country.

According to first-round voter data, Trzaslozski’s support base comes from the larger urban populations and more highly-educated people.

The former EU parliamentarian’s vision for Poland includes introducing sex education to Warsaw schools and recognising gay rights, after he took part in pride marches.

"I believe we can build the Poland we dream of; a fair Poland, a rich Poland, a strong Poland...a Poland that can protect the weak and doesn't have to fear the strong," Duda said on Friday, calling on supporters to recall what their standard of living was before he came to power.

While Duda has espoused Catholic values, as well as helping the rural poor with social benefit programs, he has been accused of anti-Semitism and homophobia.

A more tolerant Poland

Trzaskowski has called for a more tolerant Poland, which would include blocking PiS’s judicial reforms. He has condemned attacks on minorities, too.

"Have you ever heard such homophobia, such anti-Semitism, such attacks on everybody who is brave enough to say, 'We have had enough'," he said in stark contrast to Duda.

The Warsaw mayor also plans to scrap the state news channel TVP Info if elected.

He says he wants to unite Poland, and promised to block any bills that he believes undermine democratic reforms.

Poland political observers are concerned that if he becomes president with a PiS-dominated parliament, there will be a lot of issues in the future.

Trzaskowski did say that he would leave the PiS social benefit programme in place and not try to raise the retirement age, admitting that his pro-business party did not introduce such aid earlier to the rural poor.

Duda said he aims to cut the welfare programmes.

Coronavirus precautions

The election was originally slated for May but postponed due to worries over Covid-19.

Sunday’s vote is being organised like the first round: masks are mandatory, along with social distancing.

Poland currently has 37,000 confirmed infections and almost 1,600 virus-related deaths.

Polls close at 1900GMT and results are expected from Monday morning.


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