Poland is getting a new and more conservative president. Andrzej Duda, 43, won the European Union member’s presidential runoff election Sunday by an unofficial 6 percentage-point margin, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I congratulate my competitor Andrzej Duda and wish him a successful presidency," President Bronisław Komorowski was quoted by the Associated Press as saying in a concession speech late Sunday in Warsaw. A TVP public broadcaster exit poll indicated Duda was comfortably ahead at 53 percent to Komorowski’s 47 percent.
The elections are a wake-up call to the long-ruling Civic Platform Party with which Komorowski has been allied as an independent. Polish presidential powers are relatively weak, but the victory by Duda’s right-wing Law and Justice party comes ahead of important parliamentary elections later this year.
As the head of parliament, Komorowski, 62, became president following the death of Lech Kaczyński in a plane crash in Russia April 10, 2010. The incumbent ran as a safe choice amid trouble to the east where Russia’s territorial expansion into Ukraine has destabilized the region, and the tepid pace of European economic recovery.
“The choice was between two conservatives albeit with some differences,” said an analysis of the election by the BBC’s Adam Easton. Indeed, both men oppose abortion except in extreme cases. But Komorowski is more progressive on social issues than Duda, who opposes in-vitro fertilization treatments and same-sex marriage. And perhaps more important, Duda is a mild skeptic of the European Union, sharing the sentiments of millions of Poles who believe the benefits of the country’s growth under the EU hasn’t trickled down to them.
Duda’s strong 35 percent performance in the May 10 vote, which forced the runoff, indicated a population that is increasingly skeptical of the ruling party, which has been in power since 2007. Local former rock star Paweł Kukiz won 20 percent of the vote in the first round, largely from disillusioned youths who likely gravitated to Duda in the runoff.