Polish voters have sent a strong signal that they are unhappy with the country’s direction, apparently unseating the president despite years of fast economic growth and unprecedented stability. According to an exit poll, challenger Andrzej Duda, a rightwing member of the European parliament, won the presidential election on Sunday with 52% of the vote to 48% for the incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski. Official results are expected late on Monday. If Duda’s win is confirmed, it could herald a political shift in the European Union’s sixth largest economy, a nation that has been able to punch above its weight in Europe without belonging to the 19-nation eurozone. Poland’s influence is underlined by the fact that one of its own, Donald Tusk, now heads the European Council in Brussels. The changing political mood could signal a return to power of Duda’s conservative Law and Justice party in parliamentary elections this autumn. That would cement Poland’s turn to the right, create a new dynamic with other European countries and possibly usher in a less welcoming climate for foreign investors.
Law and Justice presents itself as a protector of those who have not benefited from the capitalist transformation and as a defender of national interests abroad. It is staunchly pro-US, but has a sometimes defiant stance towards other European partners, which has created tensions in the past with the EU and neighbouring Germany.
Duda says he wants new taxes on the foreign-owned banks and supermarkets to protect Polish interests, suggesting an approach similar to that of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán. He also wants banks returned to Polish control.
Jacek Kucharczyk, president of the Institute of Public Affairs, an independent thinktank in Warsaw, said Poland’s relations with other European powers would now depend on whether Duda sticks to the relatively moderate agenda he campaigned on or embraces his party leader’s more combative foreign policy stance.