The presidential election in Poland has been decided. The national conservative incumbent Duda won the election against the liberal candidate Trzaskowski. Jorg Basten of the Eastern European relief organization Renovabis classifies the election results.
Interviewer: The election in Poland is decided. National conservative incumbent Duda has won the race. Opposing candidate Trzaskowski, Warsaw's liberal mayor, is defeated. What exactly does this result mean for the country?
Dr. Jorg Basten (country consultant for Poland at the Eastern European relief organization Renovabis): For Poland, this result means that there is continuity for now, that things will develop politically in a similar way as before. Likewise, that the PiS government could continue to govern without the scrutiny of an opposition-oriented president. This will likely be the outcome of the election.
Interviewer: Until the end, it was an absolute neck-and-neck race between liberal and conservative parties. How divided is the country?
Basten: Originally it looked as if Duda would be far ahead of his opponent. There were predictions in the spring and in the first round of voting eleven candidates were running. With a relatively low voter turnout, Duda then failed to prevail. This second round of voting shows that a large part of the population was motivated to vote after all. For almost 70 percent have now participated in the second round of voting.
The stalemate has been escaped only by a small margin, so it must already be said that with a high turnout and only a small difference between the two candidates, Poland is still very divided and opinions are very far apart.
Interviewer: Voter turnout was comparatively high – despite the Corona pandemic. It was already clear to everyone that a lot depends on it. Let's take a look at the voters of the winner. He was elected mainly by older people living in rural areas of Poland. The Catholics also because he stands for security and represents church values?
Basten: Poland is a country with a Catholic majority. 95 percent of the population are counted as Catholics. That means that there will also have been many Catholics who voted for Trzaskowski. But it is true that above all the people in the countryside voted for Duda and the urban population for Trzaskowski, who has been mayor of Warsaw for a long time.
Interviewer: And this despite the fact that Duda has also engaged in agitation, against lesbian women, for example, against gays, bisexuals and transgender people. With his views, is Duda at all electable for Catholics?
Basten: Apparently there is, in Poland anyway. The position of Duda was to strengthen above all families and to support the social reforms that the PiS government has implemented and to continue them, now also with an extended pension. As such, PiS policy and Duda sells itself as a Catholic politician. An open society with tolerance for different life and family models is not propagated in this way.
Interviewer: Trzaskowski was not so far away from that when it came to the topic of life models. While he supports the introduction of same-sex civil partnerships in Poland, he also rejects gay marriage, for example. That convinced the young Poles in particular. Is this perhaps also a bit of a generational conflict?
Basten: On the one hand, this is a generational conflict, but certainly even more a conflict between town and country. The rural population tends to adhere to traditional values such as family, and the urban population prefers more open social models.
Interviewer: Has the Polish Catholic Church taken a position??
Basten: So far, the Polish church has not commented on the election results. But she also held back in the run-up, in her statements also to avoid being accused of being instrumentalized by one of the parties.
Interviewer: The big theme of this election was Europe. Trzaskowski has campaigned for a different Poland with closer ties to the European Union. Duda expresses more anti-European views. What does this election result mean for Europe?
Basten: There is a certain direction in the PiS government that polemicizes against Europe. This is done in solidarity with the other Visegrad states such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. However, I have the impression there that it is more about anti-European rhetoric than real anti-European politics. Because the majority of the population, a large part of the voters in Poland, are in favor of Poland remaining in the European Union.
The interview was conducted by Verena Troster.