Support for incumbent Andrzej Duda is falling just days before Poland’s presidential election, polls show, opening up what until recently looked an unlikely possibility — an opposition candidate taking the nation’s highest office.
The re-election of Duda, an ally of the ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS), is crucial for the government’s hopes of implementing its conservative agenda, which includes judicial reforms that have brought it into conflict with the European Union, as the president can veto laws.
The election was originally scheduled for May, but could not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first round is now scheduled for June 28, with a second round two weeks later if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.
While polling still indicates Duda will come top in the first round, polls by Kantar and Ipsos published in recent days show him and his main rival, liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski of the main centre-right opposition party Civic Platform (PO), tied in a second round run-off.
The Ipsos poll also showed Duda losing in the second round to independent candidate and former TV presenter Szymon Holownia — although Holownia is seen as less likely than Trzaskowski to reach a run-off between the final two candidates.
PiS had tried to press ahead with a postal vote in May, fearing declining support for Duda due to the fallout from the pandemic, but were forced to abandon their plans.
Duda’s campaign has focused on rallying his conservative base with attacks on what he calls lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender “ideology”, while promising to protect popular social benefit programmes for families and pensioners that have transformed life for many poorer Poles.
Rafal Chwedoruk, a political scientist at Warsaw University, said he believed mobilising those who have voted for PiS due to its social policies but who are not part of the party’s traditional base of religious conservatives will be key to Duda’s chances.
“The scale of their mobilisation decided PiS’s victory in successive elections,” he said.