Pol­ish Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda failed to win enough of the vote to avoid a runoff, ac­cord­ing to exit polls, forc­ing him into what is ex­pected to be a tightly fought con­test with the lib­eral mayor of Warsaw.

Tight race likely be­tween con­ser­va­tive pres­i­dent, lib­eral Warsaw mayor

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY LOVEDAY MOR­RIS loveday.mor­ris@wash­post.com Dar­iusz Kalan in Warsaw con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Pol­ish Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda failed to win enough of the vote in Sun­day’s elec­tion to avoid a runoff, ac­cord­ing to exit polls, forc­ing him into what is ex­pected to be a tightly fought con­test with the lib­eral mayor of Warsaw next month.

Duda, the can­di­date of the gov­ern­ing pop­ulist Law and Jus­tice party, was on track to win 41.8 per­cent of the vote, ac­cord­ing to the polls, while Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trza­skowski is ex­pected to win 30.4 per­cent. He needed a ma­jor­ity to win out­right. Turnout was high, at 62.9 per­cent.

Although Duda came out ahead on Sun­day, an­a­lysts ex­pect that to change in the runoff elec­tion in two weeks, as op­po­si­tion vot­ers whose sup­port was split in the first round unite around Trza­skowski.

“It will be close,” said Mal­go­rzata Bonikowska, pres­i­dent of the Warsaw-based Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions. “Peo­ple are vot­ing for two dif­fer­ent Polands. They are like fire and wa­ter.”

The vote could re­shape Poland’s re­la­tion­ship with Europe. Duda has been a fig­ure­head for the Law and Jus­tice po­lit­i­cal pro­gram that has put it on a col­li­sion course with the Euro­pean Union. Brus­sels ac­cuses the gov­ern­ment of threat­en­ing the rule of law and the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary.

Trza­skowski, a for­mer mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment who speaks seven lan­guages, is known to have more am­i­ca­ble re­la­tions with Brus­sels.

Speak­ing at a ju­bi­lant elec­tion night event, Trza­skowski said the choice for vot­ers would be be­tween an “open Poland” and one that is “look­ing for an en­emy,” with a pres­i­dent who is try­ing to di­vide.

Duda, at his event, main­tained that his ad­van­tage was “enor­mous” and said the choice was be­tween “de­vel­op­ment” and a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the lives of nor­mal Poles un­der the op­po­si­tion. So­cial ben­e­fits for fam­i­lies have been a ma­jor pil­lar of Law and Jus­tice pol­icy.

The vote had been slated for May. Law and Jus­tice wanted to keep to that sched­ule de­spite the coun­try’s coro­n­avirus out­break. Poland has re­ported more than 33,900 cases and 1,438 deaths. The party was con­cerned that a de­lay could hurt its chances amid the re­sult­ing eco­nomic cri­sis and mount­ing scru­tiny over how the gov­ern­ment has re­sponded to the virus. But its coali­tion part­ners in­sisted on push­ing the vote back.

As polls tight­ened be­fore the vote Sun­day, Duda fell back on anti-lgbt rhetoric, brand­ing gay and trans­gen­der rights as an “ide­ol­ogy” akin to com­mu­nism, in an ap­par­ent ef­fort to gal­va­nize his base. But his com­ments caused a back­lash even in staunchly Catholic Poland.

Mem­bers of Law and Jus­tice had said they hoped Duda’s visit to Wash­ing­ton last week would boost his chances of re­elec­tion. But the trip fell short of ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tions on the Pol­ish side, with no firm de­tails an­nounced on the move­ment of U.S. troops to Poland.

Warsaw has been lob­by­ing for the United States to in­crease its se­cu­rity pres­ence in Poland, which its of­fi­cials say is even more im­por­tant fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s or­der this month to with­draw 9,500 troops from Ger­many.

Trump said Wed­nes­day that he would send “some” of the troops he planned to pull out of Ger­many to Poland, but he made no new com­mit­ment to in­crease the num­ber per­ma­nently based in the coun­try.

Speak­ing dur­ing Duda’s visit to Wash­ing­ton, Trump said he be­lieved the in­cum­bent would be “very suc­cess­ful.”

Duda has worked to strengthen re­la­tions with Wash­ing­ton to counter Poland’s grow­ing iso­la­tion within Europe as his gov­ern­ment has be­come in­creas­ingly au­to­cratic.

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