Poland’s nationalist President Andrzej Duda is advancing to a second round of elections after winning the initial contest on June 28. Mr Duda, who represents the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, garnered the highest number of votes, coming in with 42.9 percent of the tally. Civic Platform candidate Rafał Trzaskowski, the left-leaning and pro-EU mayor of Warsaw, came in second with 30.4 percent.
Under Polish election rules, a second round takes place if none of the candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote. Therefore, Mr Duda will face Mr Trzaskowski in the second round, expected to take place on July 12.
Odds are on the incumbent President to retake the presidency, but the stakes are extremely high for the survival of what some call the last Catholic bastion in Europe.
The differences between Mr Duda and Mr Trzaskowski are pronounced and according to political pundits, the race could ultimately transform the nation’s ties with the EU.
President Duda is a European political soulmate of Donald Trump and his parliamentary ally, PiS, has repeatedly clashed with the bloc.
Under PiS, Poland has played a purely negative role, obstructing Brussels’ attempts to reform migrant policy and become carbon neutral.
Moreover, PiS talks about Brussels as a new imperial occupation force and has been in a long-running dispute with the bloc over judicial reforms, which critics say limit the independence of the courts.
In December 2019, Poland’s Supreme Court even warned that government plans to overhaul the justice system could eventually force the country to leave the EU.
The conservative and nationalist formation led by former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was planning to make it possible for the government to fire judges if they questioned the legitimacy of the government’s judicial reforms.
However, according to the country’s highest court, the plans could have collided with EU law, creating further tensions between Poland’s rulers and the institutions of the bloc.
The country’s Supreme Court said: “Contradictions between Polish law and EU law… will in all likelihood lead to an intervention by the EU institutions regarding an infringement of the EU treaties, and in the longer perspective [will lead to] the need to leave the European Union.”
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European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said at the time: “The Commission has a very clear position on protecting the judiciary from political interference.
“The Commission continues to follow the situation closely. We remain ready and available to discuss with the Polish authorities ways forward to resolving the issues at hand.”
The planned judicial reforms never saw the light of day.
However, last week, Aleks Szczerbiak, Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies, told Exchange99: “What’s at stake on this election is whether or not PiS can proceed with its radical state transformation.”
Mr Duda’s re-election may therefore permit him to make use of veto powers and push via controversial judicial reforms, together with a brand new regulation.