Poland’s presidential election was close but voters far apart

WARSAW – President Andrzej Duda won re-election this week, using the same playbook that brought his law and justice party to power five years ago: Fear and Blame the Enemy.

In 2015, it was an enemy at the gates: the migrants, who party leaders said were “parasites of all kinds,” threatening the nation.

This time, it was an enemy: gay men and lesbians living in Poland, Mr. Duda said, were promoting an ideology “more dangerous than communism.”

Since the end of Communist rule in 1989, Mr. Duda won the nearest election in the country by a small margin. But a bitter campaign against his rival, the liberal mayor of Warsaw, Rafal Trajakowski, exposed old changes and created new divisions in Poland. It is unlikely to go away any time soon.

“This election was focused on internal conflicts and internal divisions,” said Andrzej Leger, a sociology professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. “And the level of polarization was surprising.”

The optimism that greeted Mr. Trezakowski’s campaign has been replaced with disappointment in his supporters, and those who feel that he was targeted by Mr. Duda’s homophobic language feared what might happen next.

“I’m nervous with Duda’s words,” said 27-year-old hairdresser Kamil Takazi in Warsaw, who is gay. “With my partner we are considering migrating to a country that will not only be free of prejudice, but most of all, where we can feel safe,” he said.

Mr Taczyk and others opposing the government say the recent election was not about trying to protect democracy in Poland, where the Law and Justice Party has decimated the country’s courts in such a way that critics To say that the rule of law is weak.

It was also about defending the country’s place in Europe and the world.

While supporters of the government point to liberal social welfare programs helping to bridge economic inequality in Poland, many voted Mr. Trozakowski who campaigned for Mr. Duda to strengthen his political polarization across the country Blamed

Professor Mr. Leather said, “Politics is getting cruel again.” “While the ruling party won politically, they have not won culturally,” he said. “The government knows that these are the last years they can actually change and change the mindset of the country.”

Party leaders have already indicated that they plan to go ahead with proposals that will silence critics, pressure educational institutions and control courts even more. In April, the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered the suspension of a new disciplinary chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, which has politically selected membership and extraordinary powers to prosecute judges opposing the government.

Some of the country’s most influential and nonpartisan media outlets are owned by foreign companies, such as Ringier Axel Springer, a German publisher. During the campaign, Mr Duda warned of a “German attack” in the election and criticized the Warsaw correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt.

Party leader Jaroslav Kaczynski said on Tuesday that “the media in Poland should be Polish.” Mr Kzeczynski also told the Polish press agency that the government planned to “take action” to allow media outlets to cover the news “more realistically”.

Mr. Leather, who opposes the Law and Justice Party, said that people under the age of 50 completely rejected Mr. Duda and his campaign and sent a clear message to the ruling party.

Younger, urban voters overwhelmingly supported Mr. Trezkowski, whose campaign almost outraged the president with an advantage, including the use of state media and the help of Catholic clergy as well as key supporters within President Trump.

Mr. Trezskowski won Warsaw with 68 percent of the vote. He won the voters in the age group of 40 to 59 by 10 points, those 30 to 39 by 11 points and those 18 to 29 by about 30 points. Mr. Duda defeated the Warsaw mayor by nearly 20 points with more than 50 votes and voters with more than 60 to 25 points. The supporters of Mr. Duda were also mostly in the eastern and southern regions of the country, where the economy is still backward.

The head of Mr. Treszkowski’s campaign team, Cesari Tomaकek, said he planned to file a formal protest with the Supreme Court, disputing the election results. But some hope that given the party’s control over the courts, the challenge will lead to any action or the outcome may change.

John Grabieck, a spokesman for the opposition Civic Coalition Party, said they were also reviewing complaints, particularly in relation to ballots outside the country, which were controlled by the government.

“There is a huge scandal that happened abroad,” Mr. Grabiec said. “Wherever the election was conducted by the National Election Commission, it was more or less correct. But wherever it was organized by the people under the government, it was a disaster, ”he said.

Marcin Matisak, a constitutional scholar who opposed changes in the judiciary made by Law and Justice, said that now there is a systemic problem with the courts.

“The main function of the courts is to settle social conflicts in a civilized manner,” he said. “After what the law and judiciary have done to the judiciary, the Supreme Court has issued a verdict regarding the validity of the election, it can no longer fulfill this task.”

Many people in the country will not respect the court’s decision, no matter what the rules are.

Mr. Mattigak said, “The struggle over the fairness of the presidential election will go ahead rather than decided by the Supreme Court.” “Bad feelings will increase, division will increase. This happens for a society deprived of an independent judiciary. “

Since announcing the victory, Mr. Duda has delivered a melodious voice. “It was a tough campaign, sometimes very difficult,” he said on Monday. “If someone feels hurt by my words, I ask them to forgive me.” And to give me another five years to improve. “

His assurances are unlikely to satisfy 53-year-old high school teacher Zabnyu Maraszek, a city-based 20,000-strong city in central Poland. Mr Maraczek said the government has created an environment that has become “unbearable”. His wife, Katarzyna, a 47-year-old university teacher, blamed the government for “arming” the Catholic Church in the party’s fight against homosexuality.

“I consider myself Catholic, but I find it unacceptable,” she said.

Nevertheless, despite her strong support for Mr. Trezakowski, Ms. Marzek was not able to change her mind in the election to her mother.

His mother said, voting for Mr. Duda.

Monica Pronczuk and Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting.