Polish President Andrzej Duda, a conservative who led a campaign with homophobic and anti-Semitic undertones, won a second term of five years in a highly competitive run-off election and defeated the liberal Mayor of Warsaw after an almost complete vote on Monday.
Duda received 51.21% of the vote on Sunday, 99.97% of the districts reported, said the state election commission. His opponent, Rafal Trzaskowski, received 48.79%.
The final results expected later on Monday could vary slightly, but Duda's lead seemed unassailable. Trzaskowski thanked his voters on Twitter and congratulated Duda. He expressed hope that his second term would be "really different" from his first.
Duda's followers celebrated what they saw as a clear mandate for him and the right-wing ruling party that supports him, law and justice, to continue on a path that reduces poverty but raises concerns about the threat to democracy.
Critics and human rights groups expressed concerns that Duda's victory would reinforce illiberal tendencies not only domestically but also within the European Union, which under Prime Minister Viktor Orban struggled to stop the rule of law eroding in Hungary.
Orban posted a picture of himself on Facebook, like Duda in the Hungarian parliament with “Bravo!” And graphics of a hand that shows a “V” for victory and a Polish flag.
Zselyke Csaky, an expert on Central Europe for the Freedom House human rights group, said Duda's victory "essentially frees the party" until the parliamentary elections in 2023 to "lift its power limits and work towards the destruction of Poland's independent institutions, such as." z as the judiciary or the media. "
The close race reflected the deep cultural divisions in this EU nation.
A bitter campaign followed, marked by cultural issues, in which the government, the state media and the influential Roman Catholic Church mobilized to support Duda and tried to stir up fear of Jews, LGBT people and Germans.
Duda also received an obvious confirmation from President Donald Trump with a last-minute invitation from the White House in late June. Trump praised Duda and said, "He's doing a great job. The Poles are thinking of the world about him."
Duda's campaign focused on defending traditional family values in the predominantly Catholic nation of 38 million people and on maintaining social spending policies.
The party's policies include extremely popular monthly cash awards of PLN 500 (USD 125) per child for all families regardless of income. They have helped alleviate poverty in rural areas and given all families more money to spend.
Duda and the party, both in power since 2015, also strengthened the support of older Poles by lowering retirement age and introducing an annual cash bonus called “13 Pension ”is referred to.
Lots of credit law and justice for keeping promises to reduce economic inequality that accompanied the country's transition from communism to a market economy three decades ago. There is a strong feeling among them that after many decades of need caused by war, communism and the economic turmoil of capitalism, economic aid restores a sense of dignity in their lives.
The party has also triggered conflicts with the EU with laws that have given it tremendous new powers over the highest courts and judicial authorities. Officials in Brussels have repeatedly raised concerns about the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, which for many years have been hailed as the most successful new democracies that have emerged behind the Iron Curtain.
Poland's populist politicians have used rhetoric to discriminate against LGBT people and other minorities in the past two years, and the party has turned public television into a propaganda tool that praised Duda and put Trzaskowski in a negative light.
Sunday's voting was originally scheduled for May, but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The voter turnout was very high at 68.1% and was close to a record of 1995, which is a sign of the enormous efforts of the Poles.
Trzaskowski, a late European Parliament legislator, said he wanted to protect the country's democratic values and unite divided society while preserving the people's welfare policies. He represented the centrist opposition party Civic Platform, which held power from 2007 to 2015. It monitored strong economic growth, but is now accused by many of widening the gap between rich and poor.
As the race got tougher in the past few weeks, Duda turned to the right in search of voices. He denounced the LGBT rights movement as an "ideology" worse than communism.
Trzaskowski, as mayor, signed a declaration of tolerance for LGBT people in his city, which triggered a nationwide backlash last year. Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski denounced LGBT rights as a foreign import that threatens Polish identity.
The EU has denounced anti-gay rhetoric, and some EU officials have requested that communities that declare themselves “LGBT-free” be refused funding – mostly a symbolic gesture with no legal meaning, but one that is gay and lesbian Has triggered fear.
Duda's campaign also occupied Trzaskowski as someone who sold Polish interests to Jewish interests and opened up old anti-Semitic tropics in a country where Europe's largest Jewish community lived before being decimated by Germany in the Holocaust.
Kaczynski took up Trzaskowski after saying in the past that Poland should remain open to discuss Jewish demands that would compensate for property that had been confiscated by the Germans and later by the Communists before World War II.
He said last week that it was a question of whether Trzaskowski really had a "Polish soul" and a "Polish heart".
Duda also turned down a German correspondent and a tabloid, some of which was German-owned, for reporting on the campaign, claiming that there had been "a German attack in these elections."
The Foreign Ministry asked the top German diplomats to complain about the reporting last week, while the German government insisted that it try not to influence the elections or the work of the free media.
Associate press clerk Pablo Gorondi came from Budapest, Hungary.