Runoff election in Poland: what's at stake?

Polls predict a neck-and-neck race in the presidential election runoff vote on Sunday. Andrzej Duda, the conservative incumbent, garnered 43.5 percent of the vote in the first ballot, while his challenger, the liberal mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski, obtained 30.5 percent. Commentators are on tenterhooks in Poland and abroad.

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

On the edge of the abyss

Gazeta Wyborcza says Duda has disqualified himself as president:

“Andrzej Duda, a PiS instrument, should protect the constitution - but he undermines it. He should bring Poland together - but he sows hatred and contempt for minorities. He should represent the state with dignity - but his decisions, gestures and tirades do just the opposite. ... We need to speak to our fellow human beings in a friendly manner, listen to them and convince them to vote for a democratic candidate. 'Elections' are also taking place in Hungary and Belarus, and there's even 'referendums' in Russia now. But you always know who's going to win. Duda's re-election would mean that Poland is heading in the same direction. We're on the edge of the abyss.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

We are still one nation

Editor-in-chief Bogusław Chrabota calls for a level-headed stance in Rzeczpospolita:

“Let us respect the election of the head of state, regardless of who wins. A heated mood could create a conflict that destroys something far more important than the interests of one party. I am talking about the Polish community. These elections will not change the fact that we are one nation and that we must be able to talk to each other. We must seek mutual understanding. I believe this is still possible.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Political moderation is vital

The election outcome will be crucial for Poland's democracy and position on the world stage, the Financial Times believes:

“It will fall to the next president either to advance or to resist controversial government policies which, in the past five years, have tarnished Poland's impressive record since it shook off communism in 1989. ... The danger is that, in a second five-year term, Mr Duda would countenance a still more radical PiS assault on the rule of law. This would damage Poland's standing with many EU partners and possibly with Washington, were Joe Biden to defeat Mr Trump in November's US election. For Poland, political moderation is more than a good in its own right. It is an insurance policy for its security in the world.”

Baricada (RO) /

Voters showing their disappointment

Writing in Baricada, journalist Boyan Stanislawski is not surprised that Andrzej Duda won the first round of elections:

“Duda's voters are among those who are deeply disappointed and have lost confidence in the institutions and the system in general. ... The PiS and Duda are trying in a very aggressive way to get things back on track. It is no coincidence that precisely this backward-looking profile is attracting many people - after all the decades dominated by the ideology of individualism and personal success. After 1989, the most important motto was: 'Get rich'. You can imagine that not everyone was able to take this advice to heart. A feeling of distress has built up in society, which has now manifested itself in votes for the PiS.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Fear versus fear

There is one factor in particular that drives people to the polls, Krytyka Polityczna writes:

“One group of voters is afraid that democracy will collapse, Poland will be isolated in the EU and freedom of expression will be restricted. The other group fears that the economic security achieved in recent years will be lost, or that Polish politics will be subordinated to foreign interests. Quite apart from how real these threats are, the fear of them is very real indeed. So we have two groups that cannot build up any common perspectives. If they faced each other, both groups could sing, 'My fear is better than yours!'”

Ukrayinska Pravda (UA) /

Duda could set his sights even further to the right

The fact that the far-right Confederation Party led by Krzysztof Bosak did so well in the first round of voting is likely to have an impact on the run-off vote, Ukrayinska Pravda comments:

“Society is to a certain extent pidgeonholing 'Confederation' voters by branding them as marginal or fascists. ... But this certainly won't move Bosak's supporters to reconsider their political views. ... As the confrontations ahead of the run-off vote are set to intensify, one should reflect on a very simple question: how will Andrzej Duda try to win over Bosak's voters? After all, before the run-off vote, one will be betting on them and on the undecided. Does this not mean that slogans that were previously considered politically incorrect will now be adopted in the election campaign?”