On Sunday, Poland votes on a president. Warsaw has long been as island of stability in an increasingly volatile Central and Eastern Europe. But this presidential race is exposing the cracks in the country’s ruling elite and paving the way for what could likely be more unexpected results in the autumn parliamentary elections. The results of the first round of the presidential election came as a shock for the country’s ruling elite — and for all Europe. President Bronislaw Komorowski had been expected to win going away but he was suddenly confronting a tougher-than expected runoff. He had a week to persuade Poles to re-elect him as his party — and the European Union — begin to worry. The results suggested growing fatigue with Civic Platform, the party that has ruled Poland for almost a decade. The problem, however, is that there is no sensible alternative to it.
Andrzej Duda, the fresh face of Poland’s conservative Law and Justice Party, defied pollsters by defeating Komorowski in the first round. Meanwhile, a former punk rocker turned anti-establishment campaigner, Pawel Kukiz, stunned the country by scoring 20 percent of vote. The Polish left was virtually decimated, winning a combined 4.2 percent, roughly the same share as the Holocaust-denying, radical libertarian candidate Janusz Korwin-Mikke.
Civic Platform under Komorowski has pursued strong rapprochement with Berlin. The strategy was a cornerstone of Warsaw’s foreign policy and of growing importance in the European Union.
Duda and his Conservatives may talk tough about Russia, but he is challenging this pro-EU approach. He seeks to revise relations with Germany and distance Warsaw from Brussels. This surely makes Duda the favorite with the Kremlin, which is striving to disrupt the unity of the European Union as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moscow also loathes Warsaw’s hawkish position on Ukraine.