Credit: Jakub Szymczuk / Kancelaria Prezydenta RP Public Domain

Poland: Nationalist Duda wins narrow re-election

Not the result they were praying for in Brussels, to put it mildly:

“Poland’s incumbent President Andrzej Duda has narrowly beaten challenger Rafal Trzaskowski in Sunday’s presidential vote.

The National Electoral Commission said Mr Duda had won 51.2% of the votes.

It is Poland’s slimmest presidential election victory since the end of communism in 1989.

One of the major issues of the election was the future of the country’s strained relations with the European Union.

Mr Duda is a social conservative allied with the government led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, while Mr Trzaskowski is the socially liberal mayor of Warsaw.”

What does it mean? Well, domestically, it means that Duda will have free reign to implement his agenda in Poland for at least the next three years until there are parliamentary elections. Like all domestic agendas, there are some things to like, and some things not to like.

Duda is an interesting politician in that his platform marries a conservative approach on social issues like abortion, gay rights, and law and order, with a very left wing approach on economic issues, spending billions on social programmes to raise people out of poverty. He is deeply sceptical of the EU, and of the influence of unelected NGOs. One of the most controversial moments of the campaign was when he referred to LGBT rights as an “ideology akin to communism”. He was referring to the nexus of NGOs and international bodies promoting LGBT rights, but – understandably – many ordinary gay people took offence.

Less attractively, Duda has been persistent in his determination to weaken the independence of the judiciary and the media. Like many conservatives around the world, he sees both as liberal institutions pursuing a liberal agenda. But, at least in the case of the media, this is their right, and the closeness of the result suggests that many poles are correctly growing concerned about his authoritarian instincts.

Abroad, Duda’s victory strengthens the Polish-Hungarian axis in the European Union, which is hostile to inward migration and further European integration, so it’s a victory for eurosceptics across the continent.

In summary: A good result if you are somebody in Poland who is pro-life, or eurosceptic, or poor, or a traditionalist on social values. A bad result if you are pro-EU, left wing on abortion and gay rights, or believe in a free media and judiciary.

Update: A pole living in Ireland objects to that last sentence, pointing out that the defeated opposition candidate was, in many ways, as conservative on social issues as Duda, but more pro-European:

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