Poland: Right-wing opposition candidate Andrzej Duda surprisingly wins presidency in close election
June 3, 2015
Polish voters surprisingly elected Andrzej Duda, candidate of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) opposition party, as their new president on 24 May in the second round of voting. Opinion polls had suggested that President Bronislaw Komorowski would be the clear winner. While the role of president is largely ceremonial in Poland, the president is important from a diplomatic perspective. As Duda’s party is strongly nationalist and is moderately Eurosceptical, this could lead to more tense relationships with the European Union and Germany in particular. Duda has called for shifting more powers from Brussels back to member states, and he will have the authority to block potential EU treaty changes. The zloty depreciated in reaction to the results, as markets fear that policies Duda promoted during his campaign, which could bloat Poland’s public account, will be put in place.
This was the closest presidential election in Poland’s history and turnout was relatively low, at 55.34%. Duda, who will take office on 6 August, received 51.55% of the votes, thus defeating Komorowski, candidate of the ruling center-right Civic Platform (PO) party. Komorowski has held the post of president for the last five years after winning with 53% of the votes in the 2010 election.
The result of the elections marked a significant change in Poland’s political landscape, which has been dominated by the PO party since 2007. It is also a major surprise as all opinion polls had projected Komorowski’s victory in the first round of the elections, even though the latest polls highlighted a decline in former president’s popularity. According to Peter Attard Montalto, Senior Emerging Markets Economist and Strategist at Nomura, the outcome of the elections can be explained by several factors:
Across both rounds there was a strong anti-PO protest vote. In the first round this support went to smaller parties and then switched mainly to Mr Duda in the final round. Second, the youth vote was far less pro-PO than expected, particularly outside major urban areas. Third, the PO had a much greater problem persuading their core supporters (professionals etc) to vote than the PiS did (older and rural voters). Finally, the PiS was more successful than expected in its scatter-gun approach to policy, and the electorate overlooked its less anti-Russia, less pro-EU stance – or it was seen as less important than a protest vote.
Duda’s victory comes in a context of a rise in right-wing and Eurosceptic parties across Europe and signals a shift in the public opinion as well as a reshaping of the political landscape. The result casts high uncertainty on the outcome of the parliamentary elections that are scheduled for October. Another victory for the PiS party could lead to major changes in Poland’s policies.
Author: Eric Denis , Economist