Duda keeps hold of power in Poland
POLISH President Andrzej Duda, a conservative who ran a campaign with homophobic and anti-semitic overtones, has narrowly won a second five-year term in office.
In a bitterly fought run-off election, he defeated the liberal Warsaw mayor, according to a near-complete count of votes.
Mr Duda received 51.21% of Sunday’s vote with 99.97% of the districts reporting, the state electoral commission said.
His opponent, Rafal Trzaskowski, got 48.79%.
Mr Trzaskowski thanked his voters on Twitter and congratulated Mr Duda, expressing hope his second term would be “really different” from his first.
Mr Duda’s supporters celebrated what they saw as a clear mandate for him and the right-wing ruling party that backs him, Law and Justice, to continue on a path that has reduced poverty but raised concerns that democracy is under threat.
Critics and human rights groups expressed concerns that Mr Duda’s victory would boost illiberal tendencies not only at home but also within the European Union, which has struggled to halt an erosion of rule of law in Hungary under prime minister Viktor Orban. Mr Orban posted a picture of himself on Facebook shaking hands with Mr Duda in the Hungarian parliament with “Bravo!” and graphics of a hand showing a “V” for victory and a Polish flag.
Zselyke Csaky, an expert on central Europe with the human rights group Freedom House, said Mr Duda’s victory gives the party “essentially free rein” until parliamentary elections in 2023 “to do away with limits on its power and work towards destroying Poland’s independent institutions, such as the judiciary or the media”.
The close race reflected the deep cultural divisions in the EU nation.
It followed a bitter campaign dominated by issues of culture in which the government, state media and the influential Roman Catholic Church all mobilised in support of Mr Duda and sought to stoke fears of Jews, LGBT people and Germans.
Mr Duda also got an apparent endorsement from US President Donald Trump with a last-minute White House invitation in late June.
Mr Trump praised Mr Duda, saying: “He’s doing a terrific job. The people of Poland think the world of him.”
Andrzej Duda celebrates his victory