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AGNIESZKA KUBLIK: Upon whose support can Andrzej Duda count the most?

PROF. JAROSŁAW FLIS: That’s not a simple question. Sure, convincing moderate conservatives will be an easy task; all those who voted against the Civic Platform (PO) in 2015 and are now somewhat disillusioned with PiS. The incumbent president should either hope that these voters will let it be and not vote him out of office, or that they conclude that whatever happened throughout the last five years is not enough to justify shifting the political paradigm.

There is still a part of the electorate which the most zealous opponents of PiS can easily alienate;  I’m talking about those who insist on seeing this election as a choice between a better, more thoughtful Poland guided by enlightenment principles, and a Poland that is ignorant and vulgar.

Joachim Brudziński, the head of president Duda’s campaign, already announced that:     „The weeks ahead will be very demanding; we will work hard and humbly, and fight for each single vote”. Specifically, which votes should they be fighting for the most?

– All polls suggest that constituencies where Bronisław Komorowski won in 2010 by only a very small margin are the most likely to be swayed. These are the same constituencies where the Civic Platform was only slightly ahead in its best years.

It’s much easier to win back voters whose support you already had at some point than convince new ones. We’re talking about towns and municipalities in western Poland where, just like last time, relatively more people are likely to have their minds changed. It’s places like these where PiS saw the biggest spike in voter support during the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections, but also in parliamentary elections last year.

It would be easier for Rafał Trzaskowski to gain more votes there than in Poznań, where he already convinced everyone that could be convinced, or in such conservative strongholds as Janowo Lubelskie or the districts near Łomża.

Trzaskowski is also going for the eastern flank.

-He should be showing up wherever he can. District towns and cities in eastern Poland are of crucial importance; so are the more central districts bordering Wielkopolska and the areas formerly belonging to Congress Poland in the 19th century. Same applies to provincial Śląsk in the south-west and Kaszuby in the north.

Duda is seeking support from both left and right. On Monday, he announced that: “there’s an entire spectrum of values that me and mr. Bosak would agree on, and I also think we share a similar vision for Poland”.  Meanwhile, senator Stanisław Karczewski was trying to convince us that “people who voted for Robert Biedroń appreciate our social-policy reforms”.

– Duda’s strategy is essentially based on two pillars: one is identity-politics, which echoes the views of the far-right Confederacy, and the second, economic pillar, that is closer to voters on the traditional left side of the spectrum. Of course, these two pillars force the president to straddle.

Is there a chance that those who voted for the Left candidate Robert Biedroń will also support Andrzej Duda?

– That’s probably the least likely scenario.

That’s a tiny fraction anyway; Biedroń will probably end up with a historically low percentage of votes, doing even worse than Magdalena Ogórek whose support five years ago was at 2,38 percent.

-A beautiful disaster indeed. There was a visible lack of a coherent strategy and a whole range of chaotic decisions to begin with, and that usually doesn’t come across as particularly convincing.

What could then influence the distribution of votes in Duda’s favor?

– PiS is deeply convinced that it’s not only on the right side of history- everyone thinks that about themselves- but that they are also on the more popular side. They truly believe that that talking about identity-politics, raising ideological issues, while also instigating an aversion towards Warsaw and all that high-brow modernity associated with it will be enough to convince the majority of people to join their camp. Normally, receiving 43 percent of the vote compared to his main opponent’s 30 percent would mean that the sitting president is leading by a tremendous margin. However, because Kaczyński managed to frame the election as a struggle between PiS and the rest of the world, it looks like the rest of the world is leading 57 to 43. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Trzaskowski is the most natural choice for all those who don’t support PiS.

It looks like Artur Dziambor, member of the far-right Confederacy party and Krzysztof Bosak’s campaign staffer, already made up his mind: „the choice between Duda and Rafał Trzaskwoski is essentailly a choice between a guillotine and a shot in the head”.

They’ll say all kinds of things now. From Trzaskowski’s point of view, by not declaring their support for Duda, the Confederates are only doing him a favour.

In the first round of election, Trzaskowski and Hołownia, if counted together, received as many votes as Duda. If we’d also add the votes cast for Kosiniak-Kamysz and Biedroń, i.e. if we’d consider the entire senate majority- Civic Coaltion (KO), Left (Lewica) and The Polish People’s Party (PSL)- as one unified bloc, we’d be in the lead.

What part of Hołownia’s, Kosiniak-Kamysz and Biedroń’s electorate will decide to cast their ballots in the runoff election and vote for Trzaskowski?

– The question should rather be: what part of their electorate with vote against Duda. For Trzaskwoski to win the majority, the entire electorate of the other three candidates should show up in the second round and vote for anti-Duda.

Is this even possible?

– I’m not sure. We’ve seen it happen in the Senate, even though there wasn’t a clear unanimity with regards to some of the candidates. Nearly the entire electorate of the oppositional block had to vote against PiS for the opposition to succeed and win the majority.

Voter turnout will be crucial.

-Poland saw a record-breaking voter turnout, but the most impressive spike was in small towns – the smaller the town, the greater the turnout rate. There’s still a noticeable difference between the province and cities, but this tendency is slowly levelling out.  

Inciting more small-town voters to go to polling stations is an undeniable bonus that PiS managed to earn for itself in the last few years; they managed to convince all those who perceived national elections as a high-brow urban-crowd activity to go out and vote. After all, the narrative goes, all these city snobs claimed that the voter turnout depends on how smart the community is.

In smaller municipalities, voter turnout was even greater than in the local elections, probably reaching its peak.

Compared to his results in the first round five years ago, Duda is on a more preferential position this time. Back then, he won the first round gaining 33 percent.

– In 2015, a significant part of the electorate thought that the Civic Platform deserved to lose, but that PiS didn’t deserve to win. This time, we could see a similar, though a reversed scenario: PiS deserved to lose, but PO didn’t deserve to win. Fast forward five years, many voters understand their choice much better this time.

Do you think it’s possible that most of Hołownia’s supporters will vote for Duda?

–No. Duda hopes that most of these people won’t even cast their ballot.

Hołownia already made it clear: he won’t support the incumbent president

-Hołownia still has almost two weeks left to talk with his activists and supporters and decide how to strategically position himself towards Trzaskowski and where to gain leverage. We’ll see if this new wave of anger at PiS is stronger than the slightly older and somewhat smaller antipathy towards PO.

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