Poland set to vote in presidential run-off: Komorowski or Duda?

The 2nd round of presidential election in Poland will take place on May, 24. It’s Andrzej Duda vs. Bronislaw Komorowski.

Questions:

1. In your opinion, was Mr. Duda able to capitalize on his victory in the first round?

2. What about President Komorowski, was he able to find some new message to attract the voters to his side, at least partially?

Answers:

Benjamin Stanley, Research Fellow, University of Sussex

1. Duda has not really made much progress in consolidating his victory. I think that one of the reasons for this is that his first-round result was achieved as a result of working at ‘full capacity’ – the percentage of votes he gained was roughly equivalent to the percentage of votes PiS has been polling in recent months. Whereas Komorowski needs to get those who did not turn out in the first round to go to the polls in the second round, Duda is more reliant on vote transfers from those who opted for another candidate in the first round. In particular, he needs to get support from those who voted for Paweł Kukiz, but this will depend more on whether Kukiz is willing to endorse him than on anything he is able to say or do in the campaign. He also put in a poor performance in the first of the second-round debates, which has put his campaign on the back foot.

2. Komorowski has tried to emphasise two new messages in the second round. Firstly, he responded to Kukiz’s first-round performance by signing a bill to amend the constitution to allow a single-member district electoral system to be introduced (this is what Kukiz has been campaigning on). Constitutional scholars are divided on whether this will actually be legal, but it has at least allowed Komorowski to depict himself as responsive and engaged. The other initiative was a bill which would qualify citizens to retire on a full pension after 40 years of work, regardless of whether they had reached the statutory retirement age of 67. The raising of the retirement age has been one of the most unpopular moves made by the incumbent government, so this bill may gain him some support. However, the manner in which he has pursued both of these objectives smacks of electoral expediency, and he is clearly counting on people believing that he is actually sincere in his support for these initiatives. On the other hand, he put in a very polished performance in the debate, particularly in his area of interest and expertise, foreign policy. So while the jury is still out on how effective his new initiatives have been, he has made some progress in impressing on voters the virtues of the experience that comes with incumbency. If he performs as well in today’s debate, I think the advantage will be with him going into the weekend’s election.

Konrad Hyży, Senior Analyst at Demagog.org.pl

1. I think Andrzej Duda was quite a surprise for everyone in the first round. His victory, although slight, came with a bit shock for both main political parties. On the next day after the election night Duda was an example of an energetic, forward-looking politician who can easily replace Komorowski at his post. The change came with the last Sunday’s debate where the current president showed a completely new approach. Andrzej Duda, while facing the aggressive and pushy attitude apparently felt oppressed and backed-off. Duda has lost his momentum and instead of following the strategy that was presented right after the 10th of May, he appeared to be a bit weaker than his opponent.

2. President Komorowski started off the campaign in a really good atmosphere. Over 60% of the voters expressed their trust towards him and it seemed that nothing can stop Komorowski from being re-elected. During the few months his support has decreased to a 45% level and the traditional voters of the Civic Platform have started to blame the president for his mother-party faults done over the past eight years. It appears that Bronislaw Komorowski unwillingly became a scapegoat of Civic Platform that decided to sacrifice him in order to ensure the victory in the Autumn parliamentary elections. His main motto, dividing Poland for two parts- rational and radical- has not made a predicted impact and become yet another episode in a ten-years-old PO-PiS political conflict.

As for the second round, it seems that everything depends on the turnout. In the first round the traditionally conservative East has showed more engagement and supported Andrzej Duda. His victory was guaranteed by only 175 thousands of votes. No wonder Duda tries to appeal the typical right-wing PiS voters by using the references to a religious tradition, for instance John Paul II.

In order to win, Komorowski needs to encourage his electorate which consists mostly of a well-educated, rather young and successful residents of a big agglomerations.

Piotr Maciej Kaczyński, Lecturer, European Institute of Public Administration

As for the PL presidential elections, the issue is still open. I would say, 50:50 with a slightly bigger chance for Mr Komorowski. Why?

President Komorowski campaign before the 1st round was largely perceived as weak. It was as if the President’s camp was complacent and waited for victory, rather to fight for it. This approach has been punished by the voters. A cold shower on this camp (losing to Mr Duda when you expected to win over 50% of the vote in the first round!) meant much better and faster reorientation of the campaign. Since, the President’s campaign has been more assertive on the issues. Also, a cold shower on the President performance in the first round shows to the wider public that his reelection is not given. Hence I would expect much higher turnout in the 2nd round, especially in the traditionally pro-PO regions, such as Warsaw (the city), Gdansk (the region) and Poznan (the region). Will this be enough? Too close to tell, also because Mr Duda’s campaign was good, moderate, attracting a lot of votes that would not naturally drift towards his party under its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The latest opinion polls suggest the President could have a slight advantage, but the mobilisation in both camps is high.

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