Without the corona virus, this year’s presidential election in Poland would probably have been a match. Originally scheduled for May 10, but eventually starting with the first round of elections, the current president ran a towering chance – he could have won a final victory of over 50 percent in the first round, according to April polls, but the epidemic has thoroughly shaken the government. Andrzej Duda, who is backed by Justice and Justice (PiS) in 2006, can run with less certainty for him in the first round, pushed to June 28, with 11 candidates running. And a second round on July 12 could already be completely open.
You can read more about the legal draft leading up to the coalition crisis before the election here.
But what is the stake of a presidential election?
In semi-presidential Poland, halfway between the parliamentary power that gives the prime minister primary power and the presidential republic that prioritizes the head of state, there is a substantial stake in what kind of political force the president represents. An opposition head of state could be a real counterweight to PiS, which is confronted with the EU, while with Duda’s victory, PiS, led by Jarosław Kaczyński, could continue on a path lined with EU infringement proceedings, including judicial control.
Although the relative majority is still behind the president elected in 2015, at 40 percent expect in the first round, according to surveys – but the second round, which will certainly be held two weeks later, will bring an open fight between him and the Civic Platform (PO) candidate, who only ran for the presidential election on 15 May. Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzakowski started from 17 per cent and has now exercised his support above 30 per cent.
- How did the struggle for the presidential election in Poland become open?
- Who is most likely to advance to the second round alongside Andrzej Duda?
- What is at stake in the presidential election?
Some people no longer have questions, And there are those who read the Index.
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I didn’t like the enveloping victory
Yet Duda did not stand ill as he entered the election year, in fact, he was able to improve continuously until this April. This has been in keeping with the trend that the one in power will be strengthened by a crisis situation if the government seems to be able to handle it.
As the epidemic did not erupt and the economic damage caused by the restrictions, the Polish government came up with a package equal to a tenth of GDP, 47 billion euros – the state will cover, among other things, 40 percent of the employee’s previous salary if the company stands for another 40 percent and employee accepts the salary thus reduced by one-fifth – so it was not surprising that the candidate of the Civic Platform, Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, vice-president of the Sejm (lower house), was constantly weakened.
He stood at 26 percent in January, eventually stepping back from the competition at 5 percent support and handing over his place to Trzakowski. The timing of May 10 would therefore have been perfect for the ruling party, and it could rightly fear that the postponement could only give the counter-candidates a chance. However, the virus intervened.
But it was not simply the postponement of the election that gave the opposition a chance, but the way the ruling party insisted on holding the vote as soon as possible despite epidemiological restrictions.
PiS wanted to do this entirely by letter vote, but it did not have the legal conditions, in practice no yes voters took the opportunity, and PiS had previously opposed it.
Complicating matters was the absence of a majority in the governing coalition in the upper house of the legislature, the Senate, since last autumn, so Kaczyński, who led PiS, could not convey his will as would be possible in, say, a unicameral legislature with a two-thirds majority.
In addition, PiS’s coalition partners did not like it legally either attackable rule change and dubious data management, which raised the risk of electoral fraud, so not only the opposition but also the first freely elected Polish president, Lech Wałęsa, who had previously supported the PiS, called for a boycott of the election.
Due to opposition from his own coalition partner, the Podrozumenie (Compromise) party, Kaczyński had to give up, agreed with the coalition partner on the postponement, and issued a joint statement acknowledging that the May 10 presidential election was impossible due to practical difficulties. From this, as we have written, in presidential terms, a presidential election was held in Poland at that time, where the polling stations were not open and no voters cast their ballots.
His legal tug-of-war, creative interpretation of the laws, also worsened the government’s perception, the government coalition almost fell on him, and what PiS wanted to avoid happened: opponents began to come up before the first round, which was pushed to June 28.
An opposition president can be a real brake
First, journalist-philanthropist-TV producer Szymon Hołownia, whose success signals a general social disappointment and mistrust of established political forces that is seen in many parts of the world.
It was then that he replaced PO Kidawa-Blonska with the popular mayor of Warsaw. The winner of the first round of the 2018 autumn municipal elections, with a 48-year-old politician, gained momentum from the PO, formerly led by Donald Tusk, a former European Council and current president of the European People’s Party. In a sense, in addition to Duda, the biggest loser in the situation is Hołownia, who, according to surveys, could expect as much as 50 percent support from the current president in a second round as much as Trzakowski.
PiS can cause severe headaches if Duda loses:
the president has the right, using his right of veto, to return the voted laws to the lower house, which could override the presidential veto by only a 60 percent majority.
In the 450-member Sejm, the PiS alone has only 198 representatives, but with two coalition partners, it has only a narrow majority behind it. Thus, it can block all the essential movements of the ruling party, so the presidential election is essentially about whether the majority of Poles agree with a policy that pushes the framework of the rule of law.
(Cover image: Polish President Andrzej Duda, candidate for Governor Law and Justice (PiS) is campaigning in Radom on June 25, 2020. Photo: Omar Marques / Getty Images)