Poland has decided. Andrzej Duda of the national conservative Law & Justice Party (PiS) received a slim majority of votes, and so will remain President of Poland. Nevertheless, his challenger from the liberal Civic Platform (PO), Rafał Trzaskowski, had a very respectable result, coming out of nowhere to post a serious threat to the incumbent president in a very short space of time. So, what does the election result mean for Europe?
The more successful Trzaskowski was in the polls, the uglier the election campaign became. The PiS campaign, in particular, targeted minorities, including the LGBT community, and relied on eurosceptic and anti-German messaging. Law & Justice like to position themselves as defenders of traditional national and religious values against modern “ideologies”. With the re-election of the PiS candidate, their political supremacy is secured at least until the next parliamentary elections in 2023.
The Polish president does not wield much actual power, but he can block laws through his veto ability. Since the Law & Justice party achieved its absolute majority in parliament, it has been dramatically transforming the Polish state and its relations with the EU. The European Commission has responded to what it sees as the erosion of civil liberties and checks and balances with complaints to the European Court of Justice and infringement proceedings.
The liberal challenger, Rafał Trzaskowski, had campaigned with a vision of “another Poland”. As the current Mayor of Warsaw and a former MEP, he promised better relations with the European Commission, and has taken part in LGBT parades. His biography is that of a multilingual cosmopolitan, and Trzaskowski would likely have represented a less confrontational approach towards Europe. It should not be forgotten, however, that the Poles who support PiS are still very enthusiastic about Europe. They know about the advantages of membership and see their country’s place historically as being at the heart of Europe.
Is President Duda’s election in Poland bad news for Europe? Will relations between Poland and the EU Commission deteriorate further? Or was the eurosceptic rhetoric just for the purpose of winning re-election (particularly given a majority of Poles support their country’s EU membership)? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!