One of the most heated elections in Europe so far has ended in Poland, with the country’s National Electoral Commission declaring the incumbent President, Andrzej Duda, as the winner having achieved a vote share of 51.2 percent. It is Poland’s tightest presidential race since the end of communism in 1989.
The turnout for the election was 68.2 percent.
Trzaskowski Failed to Broaden His Appeal
The Civic Coalition’s (KO) candidate, Rafał Trzaskowski, failed to muster all the support from the other candidates such as Szymon Hołownia, who came third in the first round of the presidential election thanks to his campaign for ‘modern solidarity.’ This made it more difficult for Trzaskowski to topple his conservative opponent.
Trzaskowski also failed to take advantage of the votes right-wing nationalist Krzysztof Bosak won in the first round of the poll. Even though the KO’s candidate and Bosak share similar economic views, there is no doubt that many of the latter’s supporters ultimately lent their vote to Duda.
Now that Duda’s second term is secure, the Polish President has to ensure that he can heal the divisions that this election has caused. But now that he has secured a mandate for his policies and because of the Law and Justice’s (PiS) majority in Poland’s Parliament, it is unlikely that Duda will build bridges with those who voted for the KO in the second round of the presidential election.
What Duda’s Second Term Means for Poland
This will result in a lack of progress for those hoping to secure more LGBT equality in Poland. Throughout the election, Duda described LGBT rights as an ‘ideology’ more destructive than communism. Furthermore, the country has been called the worst nation in the EU for LGBT rights.
Duda will also proceed with his controversial judicial reforms that caused him to clash with the EU. The Polish President’s reform program involved a supreme court chamber to conduct disciplinary actions against judges. PiS believes that the country’s flawed transition to democracy in 1989 caused the judiciary to be expropriated by a post-communist elite. Meanwhile, those on the left condemn the reforms as an attack on the rule of law.
The Polish President will also position himself closer to the Trump administration (assuming the US President wins a second election) and drift apart from the rest of the EU. This will exacerbate the EU’s divisions as Duda will continue to align himself with anti-EU leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
PiS Must Look to the Future
It is clear that the incumbent did not appeal to more liberal voters to secure his election victory, but under Poland’s constitution, a first-term president can only be re-elected once. Looking to the future, this means that although Duda will not contest the 2025 Polish presidential election, PiS, the party he is associated with, must appoint a candidate who can appeal to Poland’s more liberal voters if they want to prevent the next election from being so closely contested.
Duda’s voters tended to be concentrated in smaller towns, villages and older populations, while larger cities and women would vote for Trzaskowski. This election revealed how geographically and demographically divided Poland is. As the country’s more liberal voters expand in size, PiS would do well to drop its opposition to issues such as LGBT rights if it hopes to win the 2025 election with a broader coalition of voters. However, it is unlikely that this will happen by the time of the 2023 parliamentary election with Duda at the helm.
This election proved that PiS cannot continue to appeal to a narrow electoral base anymore and it exposed Poland’s polarized political divisions. Those voters Duda failed to appeal to will decide PiS’s fate over the next five years, which is why he cannot afford to take the electorate for granted anymore.