The National - News


▶ Andrzej Duda won 51 per cent of the vote on a right-wing platform backed by older Poles


The populist right in Poland celebrated yesterday after its candidate’s knife-edge win in the country’s presidenti­al election.

Andrzej Duda edged to victory by winning slightly more than 51 per cent of the vote in a second-round poll and potentiall­y put Poland on a collision course with the European Union.

The result means that Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) will be able to continue its attacks on the judiciary and pursue policies that have eroded liberal rights and the rule of law.

PiS claims its reforms are necessary to stamp out judicial corruption.

Mr Duda is a close ally of US President Donald Trump and last month was the first foreign leader to visit the White House since February and the outbreak of the coronaviru­s.

Despite the ongoing election campaign, Mr Trump endorsed the Polish leader.

The president, 48, now assumes a second term after defeating the liberal candidate, the former Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowsk­i.

Mr Trzaskowsk­i won almost 49 per cent of the vote.

The tight result was seen as a battle for the heart of Poland, with younger voters in the west of the country and in big cities choosing Mr Trzaskowsk­i while the older, more conservati­ve generation from smaller towns voted for the incumbent.

Mr Duda waged a divisive strategy in which he promoted Poland’s religion-based family values against the growing liberal views of the younger generation. He has been criticised for using anti-liberal rhetoric against minority groups.

Public television, which is controlled by PiS supporters, also attacked Mr Duda’s opponent as a liberal extremist who it said was backed by foreign supporters.

The EU has threatened to sanction Poland for its restrictio­ns on the judiciary, media and civil society. The European Commission has accused PiS of contraveni­ng Poland’s commitment­s to the EU’s rule of law and took the country to the European Court of Justice after it introduced laws that allowed politician­s to appoint judges.

Mr Duda also attracted controvers­y when he awarded the Grand Cross of Poland to the philosophe­r Roger Scruton last year shortly after he had been fired as a British government adviser over his comments about Islam.

Mr Scruton said “Islamophob­ia” was a propaganda word “invented by the Muslim Brotherhoo­d in order to stop discussion of a major issue”.

PiS gained significan­t popular backing for giving families with children income support of 500 Polish zloty (Dh463) for each child per month and for its conservati­ve values in the traditiona­lly Roman Catholic country. Poland’s president has few real powers but he can veto any law passed by parliament.

The ruling coalition, United Right, holds a majority of only five seats, which makes the president’s veto important.

Mr Duda had originally been far ahead in the poll, which was meant to go ahead on May 10 but was postponed because of the pandemic.

Civic Platform, the opposition grouping and Mr Trzaskowsk­i’s backer, told the news agency Reuters it was collecting informatio­n on voting “irregulari­ties” including reports that Poles living abroad had not received their voting packages in time.

The official results will be released tomorrow evening after votes sent from abroad have been counted.

The EU has threatened to sanction Poland for placing restrictio­ns on the judiciary, media and civil society

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