What are the main conclusions from the Polish presidential election?

On Sunday 10 May Poles went to the polls to elect their president. Unexpectedly, to the dismay of his party and supporters, incumbent candidate Bronislaw Komorowski lost to the main opposition candidate Andrzej Duda. A second round of elections will be staged on 24 May as Komorowski’s 33.8% and Duda’s 34.8% are below the 50% required margin for an outright victory.

What are the implications?

First of all, the results shattered the confidence of the ruling PO (Civil Platform) party. Over the past year, the PO has been boosted by Poland’s economic growth and Donald Tusk’s election to the Presidency of the EU Council. Komorowski’s campaign was showing elements of arrogance and a belief in predestined election victory even on the first round. Blindly resting on the “rationality” of Polish voters, PO strategists underestimated the opponent Duda. Komorowski’s main campaign line was to maintain stability and unity of the nation overcoming political intrigues and in-fighting. The message was probably not strong enough. Duda, on the other hand, was portrayed as man who can bring a lot of change at each level of society. His charismatic behavior put aside the usually radical political rhetoric of the PiS (Law and Justice) party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Exactly this “milder” appearance may have played the trick on PO’s candidate.

Second surprise came from the 20 % support secured by the rock musician candidate Pawel Kukiz. This is a clear indication of the younger generation’s growing distrust in the traditional political establishment in modern Poland. Kukiz got his votes from mostly young and urban citizens between 18-29 years of age – a total 42% of the votes of this segment. Since the votes of the 30+ old are more or less equally spread between Komorowski and Duda, we can clearly see that Kukiz syphoned away some traditional electorate from the PO.

Lastly, the results seem to show an increasingly cemented political division of Polish society. The map below displays the votes won by Komorowski and Duda by regions. The East and South-East preferred PiS’s candidate while West, North, and Warsaw expressed their support for PO’s incumbent. Furthermore, the division also goes along size and type of settlement as well as education and occupation type. Large urban areas of above 500 000 inhabitants have voted 42% for Komorowski, while Duda received the same in settlements under 50 000 and rural areas. Generally, the bigger the city the larger the gap in favor of PO’s Komorowski. The same results are observed when it comes to education level and type of occupation of the surveyed voters. People with secondary or technical education or lower have expressed support level for Duda close to 50%. The picture is reversed when it comes to higher education and service sector professions. Students gave 47% to Kukiz which links to the phenomenon explained above. However still, age does not seem to be such a strong factor when it comes to the other candidates.

What is to be expected?

The results are surprising mostly because media, observers, and ruling PO themselves did not expect such a turnout. But having in mind the general trends in Europe, Kukiz’s result should not come as a shock. Many young voters from all over the continent have been looking for alternatives to the usual political establishment. We have a pan-European problem of decreasing feeling of democratic representation and increasing gap between voters and politicians. Komorowski comes to be the loser from this phenomenon as Duda actually mobilized most of his support to achieve this result. Kukiz diverged some young liberal energy that would traditionally support PO and it stands to the left of PiS’s catholic-nationalist mix. If at the run-off election on 24 May, some of the Kukiz vote will beacon to Komorowski, the incumbent may still retain chances to win his second term.

More on demographics of voters in this interactive map: Interactive Map 2015 Presidential Election Poland (PL)

Image sources: http://lodzkie.naszemiasto.pl/ , http://polska.newsweek.pl/