On Sunday 24 May, Poland elected a new president – Andrzej Duda. The official results show that Duda secured 51.55% over incumbent Komorowski’s 48.45%.
Two weeks ago we forecasted that Komorowski should be able to mobilize some of the protest “Kukiz vote”. However, this did not happen – the results show nearly 60% of the people who voted for Kukiz on the first round, chose Duda this time.
As the analysis of Mr Cienski for Politico explains, “the initial beneficiary of that discontent was Paweł Kukiz, a rock musician and social activist who came in third with a fifth of the vote during the first round by running a campaign aimed at the political establishment. More of those voters chose Duda over Komorowski in Sunday’s second round.” This also means that the “Kukiz vote” did not carry any liberal motivation but was indeed in its core a kind of protest against the ruling Civic Platform (PO).
Cienski’s analysis continues by explaining where the disappointment lies: “By all accounts, this is the most prosperous and secure period in Poland’s troubled history. But in smaller towns and villages there is little work and salaries are low. More than two million from this so-called “Polska B,” the other Poland far from the thriving cities, have left to find jobs in western Europe.”
Indeed, if we would take a look below at the voting results by regions, we will see that the most “pro-Duda” regions are those in the east and south-east, which are the poorest and saw most emigration and little wealth distribution. These areas are also the traditional electoral base for the Law and Justice (PiS) party.
It is also worth mentioning that according to survey results, Duda managed to mobilize at maximum the PiS electorate, while Komorowski could not. The incumbent president rallied about 86% of the people who voted for his PO party at the last general election. Duda secured 97% of the PiS vote from the same election. Another interesting point is that 20 % of the voters who chose Komorowski in 2010 voted now for Duda. The rest of the socio-demographic parameters remain the same as we described in our previous analysis of the first election round.
Lastly, there could have been also a number of young and urban voters who gave an invalid vote as a sign of protest. The candidate losing from this phenomenon was Komorowski. The social media on the election day was full of examples whereby youngsters posted images of bulletins marked with witty comments or candidates like “batman”. Clearly, this sort of protest to the lack of desired alternative also played some role in Komorowski’s defeat since Duda’s victory is by a close margin only.
What does the Duda election mean for Poland?
The analysis of Mr Cienski which we bring to your attention matches our own views and outlines the most important changes to be expected. You can find some citations below that we have selected or read the full text .
In our opinion, Duda was a surprise. His victory indicated that there may have been some level of underestimation of the situation by PO. The party has lost its leader in the face of Donald Tusk who is now the President of the EU Council and also the important figure of Radoslaw Sikorski, who embattled by wiretapping scandals, is now chairing the Sejm and is out of the spotlight. Prime minister Kopacz did not turn to be the charismatic leader PO needed in this crucial moment. Also, PO’s confidence was boosted by its good positions in Brussels and the stable economic growth which Poland enjoyed over the last decade. But obviously this was not felt by all citizens of the country equally as free market policies and quick growth in the short term tend to create income gaps. Poland’s growth also depended on relatively cheaper labor and lower wages were one of the tools PO used in its economic policies to attract investment from the richer EU countries. The need for new faces may have also played a trick on PO.
Duda hurried to announce that he will be a president for all Poles and “his doors remain open”. Furthermore, he also announced that he would leave PiS as the president cannot be a partisan figure. This, however, should be treated as the beginning of the campaign for the general elections in October. Duda’s victory shows clearly that there will be a very fierce political battle ahead. If indeed, Duda will choose to be non-partisan this does not mean he would not criticize the current PO government on any convenient occasion. He would be a very important card in the hands of Kaczynski in the upcoming months. His non-partisan status will be used as a counter-argument against those who will claim that the Presidency will be used in campaigning and partisan battles.
As concerning the foreign implications from the Duda election, we advise you to take a look at Cienski’s text as it presents a good summary.
“During his campaign, Duda did talk of Poland “not being in the mainstream” of the EU, and he has been slightly more conciliatory towards Moscow than Komorowski was — although he too wants a permanent NATO base on Polish soil. But he was measured in his discussion of EU affairs. What is likely to happen is a cooling of ties with Berlin, reflecting PiS’s traditional suspicions of Germany.”
“It won’t be like under Tusk when there was a special place for Germany in Polish politics,” said Smolar. Until now Poland had been a loyal German ally in the EU. But Duda’s views are more similar to those of the UK. Like the Tories, which together with PiS forms the core of the European Conservatives and Reformists Euroskeptic grouping in the European Parliament, he is not keen on Poland joining the euro, and is suspicious of federalist European projects.”