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Polarised Poles vote in tight presidential election

Polarised Poles vote in tight presidential election

AFP
Warsaw
Poles voted on Sunday in a knife-edge presidential run-off election between a populist incumbent closely allied with US President Donald Trump and a europhile liberal challenger, with experts saying the result will define the future of the country’s young
democracy.
The stakes are high for Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party government, which has relied on incumbent President Andrzej Duda to endorse judicial reforms that have set Warsaw on a collision course with the EU over democratic standards just three decades after communism’s demise.
Duda is struggling to beat Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski of the opposition Civic Platform (PO) as final opinion polls showed the two running neck and neck.
Wojciech, a 59-year-old builder who declined to give his surname, said he chose Duda because his close ties to Trump meant Poland “can count on the US for defence”.
He also said he “agrees completely” with Duda’s promise to ban adoption for same-sex couples.
Warsaw pensioners who identified themselves only as Helena and Maria, both in their eighties, said they picked the pro-European Trzaskowski hoping he could “get things back on the right track with the EU”. “We remember too well how it was before (under communism), so for our grandchildren we want Poland to be stable in Europe,” Helena told AFP.
Turnout hit a record high 24.73 percent by noon, the state elections commission said, suggesting the coronavirus pandemic would not dampen participation.
Long, snaking queues formed at polling stations as social distancing measures were used to try to stem infections. Voters also had to wear masks, use hand sanitiser and their own pens, plus give priority to pensioners, pregnant women and voters with
children.
The election had been due in May but was delayed because of the pandemic. Duda’s support has slipped considerably since then, partly because of the virus fallout, which is pushing Poland into its first recession since communism fell.
An exit poll is due when voting wraps up at 1900 GMT while official results are expected Monday morning.