The most extraordinary Polish election since 1989 – taking place on a different date than originally planned, during an unrelenting pandemic and under constitutionally dubious circumstances – turned out remarkably uneventful.
The results ended up closely mirroring the polls published over the last week. Szymon Hołownia, the non-partisan newcomer who ran a campaign based on promises of ending political polarization and the need to adjust Poland to the challenges of the climate crisis, came in third with almost 14% of the ballot cast. Krzysztof Bosak, a far-right candidate with a platform mixing homophobic and xenophobic narrative with radical neoliberal economic agenda, was fourth at 6,8% of votes.
Polish political scene proved remarkably stable when compared to the results of the parliamentary elections in October 2019. Duda’s result is nearly identical to the one obtained by the ruling camp last fall, while Bosak gained the exact same level of support as Konfederacja, the party he represents.
While there are important shifts within the prodemocratic opposition – Hołownia gained near 14% as an absolute political newcomer, while Robert Biedroń, the candidate representing parliamentary left, obtained only 2.5%, or 10 percentage points fewer than the Left coalition in October 2019. All in all, however, the amorphous prodemocratic camp gained 48,7% of all votes – a result nearly identical to 48,5% obtained by the three prodemocratic opposition parties in the last parliamentary election.
Finally, for the second election in a row, Poland enjoyed record-breaking voter turnout, at 64%.
This configuration of the political scene is partly the realization of Jarosław Kaczyński's dream plan and a carbon copy of the political system created in Hungary by Viktor Orbán – Law and Justice/Fidesz in the middle, "defending the citizens" from radicalism of the extreme right and "socialist left".
Kaczyński’s plan almost succeeded. It bears repeating that the election results of the Law and Justice and Andrzej Duda are very impressive and need to be taken seriously. Last October, PiS obtained the highest result, both in terms of relative share and absolute number of votes, in the history of parliamentary elections of the last 30 years. Yesterday, the incumbent president won almost 44% - the second highest result in the history of the presidential election after Aleksander Kwaśniewski's runaway victory in 2000.
However, despite the very high support for the ruling camp, the arithmetic of the Polish political scene is very different from that of Hungary. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, Fidesz obtained 49%, the far-right Jobbik got 19%, and the three main opposition parties together accounted for 23% of all votes. Orbán's party enjoyed more support than the other two blocks combined.
Compared to Hungary, from the point of view of Kaczyński's interests, Warsaw is still a much lesser Budapest.
Not only did the ruling camp fail for a second time in a row to approach the ceiling of 50 percent of support, but the democratic opposition itself overtook the ruling camp in terms of number of votes in both elections. Even though President Duda received the same support as the United Right last year, the ruling camp’s decision to bet on mobilizing its own electorate at the expense of expanding it may deprive the incumbent of re-election.
According to a poll published by the private broadcaster TVN yesterday evening concerning the runoff election in two weeks, Duda president is now leading Trzaskowski by 0.7 percentage points (45.4% to 44.7%), with 10% of voters self-identifying as undecided.
When looking at the distribution of votes in the first round, it is Trzaskowski who has more ways to get to the finish line. If, in yesterday's elections, each voter had to choose between Duda and Trzaskowski in addition to picking their first choice, the latter could perhaps already plan the logistics of moving to the presidential palace. The task facing Trzaskowski, however, is more difficult - he has to convince those who voted in the first round for his pro-democratic opponents to not stay at home in two weeks. Otherwise Duda’s re-election will be almost certain.
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