Poland's presidential challenger vows to end monopoly on power

Above: Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice party, in Rypin, Poland, yesterday. His re-election is crucial if the party is to further implement its socially conservative agenda. Right
Above: Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice party, in Rypin, Poland, yesterday. His re-election is crucial if the party is to further implement its socially conservative agenda. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Above: Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice party, in Rypin, Poland, yesterday. His re-election is crucial if the party is to further implement its socially conservative agenda. Right
Above: Mr Rafal Trzaskowski, presidential candidate for the centrist Civil Platform and Mayor of Warsaw, will go head-to-head against Mr Duda in the next round of Poland's presidential election. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WARSAW • Polish presidential challenger Rafal Trzaskowski tried to rally voters of other opposition candidates to his centrist cause yesterday, vowing to hold the nationalist government to account ahead of what looks set to be a knife-edge run-off vote.

Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, came top in the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, but fell short of the 50 per cent needed to secure outright victory, setting the stage for a head-to-head contest with Mr Trzaskowski, Mayor of the capital Warsaw, on July 12.

"I am directing my words to all those who want change," Mr Trzaskowski told supporters in the central Polish city of Plock.

"Without them, there will be several more years of a monopoly on power which is not honest and it is not possible to hold it to account because it attacks independent institutions."

The re-election of Mr Duda is crucial if PiS is to further implement its socially conservative agenda, including judicial reforms which the European Union says undermine the rule of law.

Mr Duda has painted himself as the guardian of the government's generous social benefit initiatives, and vowed to protect the traditional family and ward off what he calls "LGBT ideology", referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The morning after the election, Mr Duda said he would protect conservative social values, including ensuring gay couples could not adopt children, in an effort to win over the almost 7 per cent who voted for far-right Confederation candidate Krzysztof Bosak.

"We have many common values with Krzysztof Bosak," Mr Duda told Polish public radio.

The election was held amid the coronavirus pandemic, with voters told to bring their own pens.

Masks were required for anyone entering a polling station in Warsaw and other Polish cities. And doors remained open so people did not have to touch the handles.

Mr Duda got 43.67 per cent of the votes, according to results based on 99.78 per cent of the total number of polling districts.

Mr Trzaskowski, a liberal who is standing for the largest opposition party, the centrist Civic Platform, came second with 30.34 per cent, qualifying for the run-off.

In competing for votes, Mr Duda will face a growing sense of unease in parts of Poland over his allegiance to PiS, as well as concerns over jobs and salaries as the coronavirus pandemic pushes the economy into recession.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2020, with the headline Poland's presidential challenger vows to end monopoly on power. Subscribe