Poland”s outgoing president Andrzej Duda failed to win an outright majority in Sunday’s presidential election and is set to face Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a July 12 run-off.
According to an Ipsos projection, Duda won 41.8% of the vote and Trzaskowski 30.4%.
The official results should be released on Wednesday evening after votes sent from abroad are counted.
Turnout for this first round has been 62.4%, the highest in twenty years.
“If these results are confirmed, we are set for a very tight run-off,” Paweł Zerka, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Euronews, adding that a defeat for Duda could even pave the way for a snap election, given the tight majority of the ruling, Duda-allied Law and Justice party (PiS).
“The ultimate result will depend on whether Trzaskowski can indeed secure the support and an equally strong mobilisation (like the one we have witnessed today) among voters of the other opposition candidates. If he can do so, he stands a real chance to win the election”, he added.
A closer look at the candidates
Incumbent Andrzej Duda runs as an independent candidate allied with PiS
He seeks a second term after being first elected in 2015.
The 48-year-old president has centred his campaign around his strong track record with PiS and on the promise of stability and prosperity, pledging at the same time big infrastructural projects.
He and PiS are credited with introducing welfare programs that lifted many Poles out of poverty, such as a monthly €111 wage for each child under 18 regardless of the family income.
But the ruling party was condemned by Brussels for controversial judicial reforms that critics say allows the government to influence the top courts and other key judicial bodies. PiS, however, claimed the changes were necessary to eradicate corruption among judges.
More recently, Duda prompted wide criticism from the country’s activists for comparing the LGBT “ideology” to Bolshevism, during a rally.
Duda’s main competitor is Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, from the main opposition centre-right Civic Platform, known as Platforma Obywatelska (PO) in Poland.
PO supports civil unions for same-sex couples, opposes tightening Poland’s already strict abortion law and calls for restoring state support for in-vitro fertilization.
The party governed from 2007 to 2015 overseeing a strong economic growth, but it was also criticised for pro-market policies that increased economic inequality instead of addressing poverty.
Trzaskowski has promised to keep Law and Justice’s popular social welfare spending programmes but vowed at the same time to restore constitutional norms and improve ties with the EU.
Nine other candidates are running, including a tv personality who had once studied to be a priest, Szymon Holownia, Poland’s first openly gay presidential contender, Robert Biedron, the head of an agrarian party, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz; and a lawmaker with the far-right Confederation party, Krzysztof Bosak.
What are the president’s powers?
Poland’s president has the right to veto any law passed by parliament.
The veto can be overturned by a three-fifths majority in parliament’s lower house.
However, the ruling coalition, United Right, only holds a majority of five seats, which makes the president’s veto even more important.
The ballot was initially scheduled on May 10 but got postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the second major election happening in Europe after the continent was struck by the coronavirus pandemic.
It follows Serbia’s parliamentary election on June 21, which saw a 48% turnout.