Poles stand in line for high-stakes presidential vote

Warsaw Mayor And Presidential Candidate Trzaskowski Holds Rally Ahead of Vote

Warsaw Mayor And Presidential Candidate Trzaskowski Holds Rally Ahead of Vote

Trzaskowski, presidential candidate for the Civic Coalition (KO) under Poland's biggest opposition party Civic Platform (PO), said his results showed he could beat Duda.

"Despite the criticism, despite having to take hard decisions, I have received more votes than I did five years ago", said Mr Duda shortly after polls closed.

While Mr Trzaskowski trailed Mr Duda on Sunday, in a runoff he would be likely to gain many votes from the nine other candidates who have been eliminated, including a progressive Catholic independent, Szymon Holownia, who won almost 14%. The result is by far better than the one from five years ago and with 10 other candidates.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), observing an election in Poland for the first time since 1991 due to concerns about the rule of law, and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) both said voting had been well organised.

Supporters of Polish President Andrzej Duda listen to him speak as exit poll results were announced during the presidential election in Lowicz, Poland, on June 28, 2020.

The re-election of government ally Duda, who would now face liberal Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a run-off, is crucial if ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) are to implement their conservative agenda, including reforms the European Union says undermine the independence of the judiciary. Polls also showed that he would have a more hard time in a runoff given that many opposition votes would be expected to unite against him.

In his speech to supporters on Sunday night, Duda wasted no time communicating with supporters of other candidates, saying he shares some views with those on the left, but making a particular mention of Bosak.

'I voted for Trzaskowski of course! Why? Holownia is unaffiliated with any party and generated enthusiasm among some Poles exhausted of years of bickering between Law and Justice and Civic Platform, the country's two main parties.

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"I want to say clearly to all these citizens - I will be your candidate".

The two will face each other in a July 12 runoff that is shaping up as a standoff between two 48-year-old politicians who represent opposing sides of a bitter cultural divide.

"Personally I only see Duda as president", said Guzik, 52, an employee at the PGNIG state gas company.

Despite trailing Mr Duda by around 16 points, Mr Trzaskowski was nevertheless bullish when addressing his supporters. He was helped by adulatory coverage in state media and the inability of other candidates to campaign.

US President Donald Trump, who regards the populist PiS administration as a key European ally, gave Duda his blessing this week. There was also a mail-in voting option, and thousands of voters in some southwestern regions with higher numbers of virus infection had to vote by mail.

Bread and butter issues are weighing heavily on voters' minds as the economic fallout of the pandemic is set to send Poland into its first recession since communism's demise.

On the campaign trail, Trzaskowski promised to keep the ruling party's popular social welfare spending programs while vowing to restore constitutional norms.

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