Polish president Duda wins second term

Polish President Andrzej Duda has beaten Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in the presidential ballot.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has beaten Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in the presidential ballot.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has won a second five-year term after a tightly contested election that has handed the ruling national-conservatives a comfortable grip on government.

Duda gathered 51 per cent of the vote, the state electoral commission PKW announced on Monday. Liberal challenger Rafal Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, won 49 per cent, final results show.

The harsh presidential campaign accentuated the fault lines in Polish society running along the conservative-progressive divide.

Duda performed well in rural areas, small towns and in the conservative south and east, where his platform of keeping alive social spending initiatives and a conservative agenda on lifestyle issues resonated well.

Duda reaped the benefits of touring the country during his first term. He also profited from the policies of governing party Law and Justice (PiS), which presents itself as a defender of those regions that may have felt economically forgotten during the government of centrist Civic Platform, the party of Trzaskowski, in 2007-15.

Trzaskowski did well in larger cities. In some rural areas, the distrust of the liberal politician led to his defeat by Duda by a 10 to 90 or 20 to 80 margin.

High polarisation helped mobilise voters, with turnout at 68.2 per cent, the highest in 25 years.

The result means that PiS party and leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski have avoided having an opposition president able to veto legislation approved by the PiS-controlled parliament.

Some fear PiS may use its newly affirmed power to further curb the independence of the judiciary and local governments or embark upon the pre-announced "re-Polonisation" of private media.

The incumbent and his supporting cast employing homophobic, anti-German and anti-Semitic tropes during the campaign. Trzaskowski was subjected to vicious media attacks.

Since the publication of early exit poll results, Duda and his campaign made conciliatory gestures and called for bridging the partisan divide.

During a meeting with citizens of Odrzywol, Duda asked his compatriots to "help me put Poland and our society together".

"I deeply believe that we can shake hands and it will be a ... friendly handshake," Duda said.

Duda received congratulations from foreign officials, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who urged Duda to work for unity in Poland.

The prime ministers of neighbouring Czech Republic, Hungary as well as the US ambassador to Poland and US President Donald Trump welcomed the result.

"Looking forward to continuing our important work together across many issues, including defense, trade, energy, and telecommunications security!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Sunday vote was organised in line with precautions against the coronavirus, including social distancing and wearing protective face coverings.

The ballot was postponed from May 10 amid political bickering over holding an election during the pandemic.

Australian Associated Press