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June 29, 2020

POLAND: A tight second round ahead despite Duda’s strong performance

BY Andrius Tursa

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As expected, President Andrzej Duda (supported by the ruling Law and Justice, PiS) won the first round of the presidential election on 28 June but failed to secure an outright majority of votes. The incumbent will face the opposition Civic Platform’s (PO) candidate Rafal Trzaskowski in the second-round vote on 12 July. While Duda maintains an edge following a strong first-round performance, the runoff is expected to be tight as Trzaskowski is better positioned to attract new supporters. Considering the close battle ahead, various factors, including the endorsements from the eliminated candidates, campaigning strategies, and turnout, will be crucial in determining the outcome.

With 99.8% of ballots counted, Duda secured 43.7% of votes, followed by Trzaskowski with 30.3%. Independent journalist Szymon Holownia came in third, attracting a significant 13.9% of votes, ahead of the far-right candidate Krzysztof Bosak (Confederation Liberty and Independence) with 6.8%, the center-right candidate Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz (Polish People’s Party) with 2.4% and the left-wing politician Robert Biedron (Spring) with 2.2%. Each of the remaining five candidates attracted less than 1% of votes. Turnout is estimated at 64%, which is the highest figure since the 1995 presidential vote. No significant electoral irregularities were reported, and the National Electoral Commission (PKW) is expected to announce the official results of the mixed in-person and postal ballot by Wednesday morning.

PKW’s preliminary data is largely in line with the pre-election projections. Duda’s strong performance in the first round helps the incumbent maintain the edge over Trzaskowski ahead of the second round scheduled for 12 July. However, the runoff is expected to be tight as Trzaskowski is better positioned to attract the majority of Holownia’s, Biedron’s, and Kosiniak-Kamysz’s supporters. Considering that their voter bases are diverse from sociodemographic and ideological standpoints, Trzaskowski will likely avoid taking strong policy stances and focus on criticizing the incumbent. Meanwhile, Duda is expected to target Bosak’s electorate, which could lead to increasingly nationalist and controversial rhetoric. The potential endorsements by the eliminated candidates are an important signpost to watch.

Turnout will be another critical factor in the runoff. Duda has a more stable support base in most of the country’s electoral districts and would benefit from a lower turnout, while Trzaskowski needs to mobilize his non-core voters to challenge the incumbent. This may not be easy, considering that the runoff will be held during the summer holiday period.

Duda’s reelection would allow the ruling PiS to continue with its policy agenda until 2023, although some cabinet changes could be expected after the presidential poll. Also, he could become more independent and wield more influence over the government during his second term in office as he would not rely on the PiS for reelection anymore. Meanwhile, Trzaskowski’s victory would heighten the risk of political instability by potentially deepening divisions within the ruling camp and constraining the government’s ability to pass legislation.

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