Duda re-elected: what is the upshot?

Andrzej Duda has won Poland's presidential election. In the second round on July 12 the conservative incumbent received 51.03 percent of the vote, narrowly beating his rival Rafał Trzaskowski, the liberal mayor of Warsaw, who secured 48.97 percent. This neck-and-neck race will have major repercussions - even beyond Poland's borders, commentators say.

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The Times (GB) /

No joy in Brussels

Andrzej Duda's re-election will hamper the negotiations on the EU budget and the Covid-19 recovery plan at the EU summit in Brussels, The Times warns:

“Mr Duda's re-election will only intensify those demands to attach rule of law conditions to future payments, particularly with the ruling party already signalling a fresh assault on the independent media. Yet the reality is that there is a limit to what the EU can do to put pressure on Poland, given that budgetary decisions must be taken unanimously and that the ultimate sanction of suspension of voting rights is impossible while Warsaw can count on the support of Hungary's Viktor Orbán. Brussels must instead hope that Poland will continue to do as it has done until now and step back from full confrontation with its EU partners.”

El País (ES) /

Blocking the way for Europe

Duda's re-election is bad news for the EU, El País agrees:

“Poland's illiberal drift supports an analogous stance in Hungary and stimulates similar tendencies in other neighbouring countries. The election result does not bode well for the difficult phase that is now beginning, in which the 27 EU members must establish policies based on solidarity in response to the pandemic crisis. The nationalist government in Warsaw is known for its tendency to use the unanimity principle in Brussels as an instrument for blocking any progress towards European unity that doesn't bring tangible and direct benefits for the Poles.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Nothing but a puppet

PiS chief Kaczyński is still pulling the strings in the background, Die Presse is convinced:

“For the next three years there will be no escaping the 'good change' that Jarosław Kaczyński has prescribed for his compatriots. ... Everything will remain possible for him with Duda as president, because the incumbent - without whose signature no law can enter into force - is at Kaczyński's beck and call. ... In some places there's hope that Duda could emancipate himself from his creator in this second term. But by repeatedly disregarding the Polish constitution during his first term of office, the president has burned too many rule-of-law bridges to credibly distance himself from the illiberal customs that have been pervading his homeland over the past five years. Duda isn't a free spirit, he's a lackey.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Liberals need convincing economic policy

The election result in Poland exposes a divided country that does not defend the interests of young, tolerant, progressive people, The Guardian comments:

“The young and the urban generally voted for Mr Trzaskowski. Just as in neighbouring Hungary and in most of western Europe, the youthful cities are liberal. But to navigate a route back to power, Poland's opposition must find a way to win back the trust of communities that have come to associate greater economic security with the cultural conservatism and bigotry of PiS. It is a task greatly complicated by the continuing influence and sway of conservative elements in the Catholic church. But for Poland's heartbroken liberals, it must become the priority between now and the next electoral opportunity to turn back the illiberal tide.”

Westfalen-Blatt (DE) /

Good news for the EU

Kaczyński's triumphal march has been stopped for the time being, comments the Westfalen-Blatt:

“Trying to hold the election on the original May date in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic simply because Duda was clearly ahead in the polls proved to be a dramatic mistake. In the throes of an existential crisis, the people were not taken in by Kaczyński's self-centered power games. The opposition was revived with its new candidate Rafał Trzaskowski. All of this is impressive proof that in Poland - with its long tradition of fighting for freedom - there will be no scenario such as the one in Hungary in the years to come. The people will not allow a quasi-dictatorial grip on power. This is good news the worth of which can hardly be overestimated for the European Union.”

Denik (CZ) /

Hopes of a little reconciliation

Deník sees the first signs of the tense mood in the country easing:

“No matter whether the winner's name is Duda or Trzaskowski - he'll have almost half of Poland against him. Fortunately, both runoff candidates in the presidential elections are aware of this. Even before the outcome was clear they sent words of recognition to each other and agreed to meet in the presidential palace. That could be a sign of a détente after the fierce election campaign. And the beginning of at least a little reconciliation. Should that be the case, it would be a satisfactory outcome for the most exciting election in Poland's recent history.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Now the PiS will eliminate all opposition

Krytyka Polityczna, on the other hand, is extremely pessimistic:

“If Andrzej Duda ends up winning he will have no choice but to join forces with the government camp to eliminate the factors that are preventing the PiS from assuming full power and securing it for years to come: ... Independent media, rebellious local politicians, NGOs, judges, minorities and civil servants: after a defeat the opposition will not only have no protection in the form of the presidential veto against repressive laws. It will also be symbolically weakened. ... It's too late for optimism, the votes have all been cast. Let us now prepare ourselves mentally for what is to come.”

Azonnali (HU) /

A final victory for old-school PiS

Even if Duda becomes president again it's clear that the Polish ruling party has lost touch with the voters of the future, Azonnali concludes:

“Trzaskowski managed to win across the entire spectrum of the opposition camp [from left to right]. ... The numbers clearly show that he has the vast majority of educated, wealthy, young Poles behind him, while Duda was left only with the PiS core voters - the older, poorer and uneducated rural Poland. This time that may be enough for a victory. ... But it's quite clear that the PiS has lost the future: it is only backed by the voters of the past - both in an ideological and a biological sense.”