Pop­ulist leads, but runoff vote likely

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Vanessa Gera and Monika Scis­lowska Vanessa Gera and Monika Scis­lowska is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

WAR­SAW — Poland’s con­ser­va­tive pres­i­dent, An­drzej Duda, was the front­run­ner in Sun­day’s elec­tion, but fell short of the needed 50% of votes to win in a first round, ac­cord­ing to an exit poll pro­jec­tion.

The re­sults, if con­firmed, pave the way for what is build­ing into a very tight race in a runoff on July 12 that will most likely pit the pop­ulist in­cum­bent against the cen­trist War­saw mayor, Rafal Trza­skowski, who was in sec­ond place.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­jec­tion by the Ip­sos polling firm, Duda won 41.8% and Trza­skowski 30.4% in Sun­day’s vote. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or mi­nus 2 per­cent­age points. Poland’s elec­toral com­mis­sion has said it would re­lease the fi­nal of­fi­cial re­sults by Wed­nes­day.

Whether Duda ul­ti­mately wins a sec­ond five­year term in two weeks’ time will de­ter­mine whether the rul­ing na­tion­al­ist party that backs him, Law and Jus­tice, keeps its near­mo­nop­oly on political power in Poland.

The party has been in con­flict with the Euro­pean Union over laws that have given it con­trol over top courts and key ju­di­cial bod­ies, some­thing the 27­na­tion bloc has de­nounced as an ero­sion of demo­cratic Euro­pean val­ues.

Opin­ion sur­veys con­ducted last week in­di­cated that Duda could have a more dif­fi­cult time in a runoff given that many op­po­si­tion vot­ers would be ex­pected to unite against him.

The can­di­date with the third most votes ac­cord­ing to the exit poll was Szy­mon Holow­nia, a TV per­son­al­ity and jour­nal­ist. He was pro­jected by the Ip­sos poll to have 13.3%. Holow­nia is un­af­fil­i­ated with any party and gen­er­ated en­thu­si­asm among some Poles tired of years of bick­er­ing be­tween Law and Jus­tice and Civic Plat­form, the country’s two main par­ties. Most of his sup­port­ers have said in sur­veys they would back Trza­skowski in a runoff.

Duda’s cam­paign fo­cused on de­fend­ing tra­di­tional val­ues while promis­ing to keep rais­ing liv­ing stan­dards to Western Euro­pean lev­els. He took a po­si­tion against same­sex mar­riage and adop­tion and de­nounced the LGBT rights move­ment as a dan­ger­ous “ide­ol­ogy.”

Wo­jtek Rad­wan­ski / AFP / Getty Images

In­cum­bent con­ser­va­tive Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda greets his cam­paign sup­port­ers in Low­icz, Poland.

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