Poland Elects its President 2020

So it happens. We are in the middle of a political hurricane. Once again, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) is facing the Opposition. Can they prevail? Can they win, again? Can they prolong the momentum beyond 2020?:

No. It does not seem so. The momentum clearly is elsewhere. PiS puppet president Andrzej Duda is still the frontrunner, polling at about 35-42%. Yet he faces a glass ceiling: very few non-Duda voters will vote for the incumbent in the second round planned for 12 July.

The vote is about Duda. The sitting president tries his best for it to be about something or someone else. He tries to run on the government successes: the fight against the pandemic, the economic growth until this year, the social give aways. The support does not move a bit. Next step: he tries the negative campaign. Whom to hate? Last year during the European elections, the hate campaign against the homosexuals (LGBT) brought the party a surprise victory. It motivated the PiS supporters to show up and cast the ballot.

The hate

This time it backfires big time. The hate is so massive. The sitting President says on the record that “LGBT are not people. It is an ideology”. He becomes the overnight sensation of the international press. After all, he’s been in office 5 years and he has proven to be a smiley soft guy signing almost everything PiS sents him from the Sejm. He does not stand up for much. Instead now the sitting head of state dehumanises people. More, the head of his campaign sends a message on Twitter, a dream really, “Poland without LGBT would be more beautiful” – Mr Brudziński is an MEP. Another PiS MP and member of President Duda campaign team, Czarnek says on the state propaganda TVP that LGBT are “not equal to normal people” with no human rights. And Mr Żalek, PiS MP echoes the same line: LGTB are not people. He is asked to leave the programme on a private TVN24 station owned by Discoveries Inc.

The homophobia of Law and Justice saw many jaws dropping even lower. “Are they truly capable of this?” Mr Brudziński apologises, sort of. Mr Czarnek is reprimanded by his political family. Mr Żalek still does not know for what he should apologise for. For once, he did use the acronym “LGTB”, instead of “LGBT” and has a difficulty understand what he is talking about.

The hate campaign leaves good people speechless. The PiS supporters feel empowered and start to physically attack the protesters coming to Mr Duda rallies. On one occasion teenagers from the Youth Strike are offended for bringing in posters talking about climate change.

Latest news is that the President – after attacking the international press “for misquoting him”, which is a lie, is that he tries to take a step back. Yesterday mothers of LGBT come out to demand security for their children. So Mr Duda invites Mr Biedroń, MEP, who is the Left’s candidate for the presidency, his mother, to meet him in the presidential palace.

Why the hate, people ask. Clearly bringing the LGBT topic into the campaign has a polarising effect: support for Mr Biedroń (a prominent LGBT activist for many years) and Mr Bosak (a candidate of the far-right Confederacy) could go up, but the two are polling about 5%, so they constitute no threat to Mr Duda. But the LGBT issue is divisive for the centrist candidates. Hence the attempt. Still, it backfires.

Crowds at Rafał Trzaskowski rally in Wrocław. For meetings of President Duda people are brought in buses.

The hope

The centre has a new momentum. It comes with the new candidate Rafał Trzaskowski, the liberal mayor of Warsaw. He is a last minute replacement for Ms Kidawa-Błońska, who was a victim of the coronavirus non-campaign and a few mistakes she made along the way. Still, Mr Trzaskowski is able to mobilise plenty of support in no time. He is polling above 25%, and rising. A member of his electoral team, Mr Nitras says, “we are on the rising curve”. This week could see Mr Trzaskowski above 30% in the polls.

If he goes up, the question is why? Rafał Trzaskowski portrays himself as a candidate who wants to build a community around him. A unifier. A coalition builder. Yet he knows he needs to lead, and he leads by offering strong leadership. “Enough is enough” is what people shout in big crowds in big cities. #Mamydość is a hashtag on Twitter already.

Yet nobody can win national elections in Poland in big cities alone. This country is ruled by small towns, 10k and more. Their problems are very important, but they will not have as much traffic, they are not building trams or metro systems. They might be more frequently unemployed. They might be worried with depopulation of the Polish towns. They might be polluted from ancient heating systems. They might be worried with the quality of healthcare. They are worried about their children’s future.

So Mr Trzaskowski has a problem: how to reach out to the smaller towns? How to motivate big numbers to vote for him everywhere? How to pull off a Blitzkrieg, when most of the candidates were announced in January?

The miracle – so far – seems to be coming together neatly. By Tuesday evening Mr Trzaskowski’s candidacy is attracting more and more support from the public commentators, left to right. Mr Cimoszewicz, former left-wing PM and Foreign Minister, now an MEP with S&D alongside Mr Biedroń, said that he thinks it is pointless for Mr Biedroń to stay in the race. Former top advisor of Mr Duda says today she is closer to the thinking of Mr Trzaskowski than Mr Duda. Even a far-right politician (former MP) Jacek Wilk of Confederacy says he will vote for Trzaskowski as an anti-Duda vote.

It seems like a puzzle. All seems fit for Mr Trzaskowski to move into the Presidential Palace come August 6. But this is not given. Tomorrow is the first presidential debate with all 11 candidates. On Friday another. First round of votes is only 12 days away.

The Candidates

There are Poles who can vote in the elections and who do not speak Polish. This is for you. This is your choice (bolded are those, who are polling anything above 2%):

  1. Robert Biedroń – MEP, candidate of the Left (S&D), former Mayor of Słupsk and LGBT activist
  2. Krzysztof Bosak – MP, candidate of the far-right Confederacy
  3. Andrzej Duda – incumbent, candidate of nationalist Law and Justice (PiS, ECR)
  4. Szymon Hołownia – independent centrist, a journalist and writer
  5. Marek Jakubiak – former MP, a far-right activist
  6. Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz – MP, leader of the Polish People’s Party (Farmers, PSL, EPP)
  7. Mirosław Piotrowski – former MEP, supported by the far-right Radio Maryja
  8. Paweł Tanajno – independent businessman
  9. Rafał Trzaskowski – Mayor of Warsaw, former MEP, MP, candidate of the Civic Coalition (PO, EPP, Greens, .Modern of ALDE & Co.)
  10. Waldemar Witkowski – a leftist activist
  11. Stanisław Żółtek – former MEP, a far-right activist, created a party “Polexit”.

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