On 24 May 2015 the run-off of the Polish presidential elections took place: The nationalist-conservative challenger Duda won the race for the young voters which determined the elections’ result.
In the first round of voting on 10 May Andrzej Duda and incumbent president Bronisław Komorowski received the highest number of votes. Duda stood for the nationalist-conservative party PiS (“Law and Justice”) and, up to now, was a Member of the European Parliament. Originally, Komorowski belonged to the conservative wing of the liberal-conservative PO (“Civic Platform”).
In the second round of voting, apart from the different political origins of the two rivals, also the candidates’ age played a major role. 62-year-old Komorowski emphasised his experience, commitment to security and unity in his campaign which corresponds to his character and to a great extent also to his political views. He mainly promised continued stability and therefore stressed his five years of experience in the presidential office. His 42-year-old rival, however, focused on the changes he deemed necessary for the country and led a campaign with a dynamic image which therefore mainly appealed to young voters.
Election-winning Andrzej Duda received 51.55 % (8.63 million) and Komorowski 48.45 % (8.11 million) of the votes cast. This year’s turnout amounted to 55.34 % which almost equals the turnout of 2010.
Duda was able to mobilise virtually all the voters of Jarosław Kaczyński who stood for PiS in the last election. Komorowski, however, had to accept losses compared to 2010 – he only managed to convince 80 % of his former voters. For this reason, Komorowski’s advantage of 2010 was used up.
The voters who were not yet old enough to attend the 2010 elections and generally voters under the age of 30 played an important role in these elections. Duda and his dynamic campaign managed to win out over Komorowski who gave an antiquated general impression. This was Duda’s decisive asset which led to his electoral victory – the nationalist-conservative challenger won the race for the young voters which determined the elections’ result.
Looking at the results, there are great territorial disparities to be noted: While Komorowski’s strongholds (a 60 % share of the vote) are be found in the northwest of the country, Duda managed to achieve more than 70% in the southeast. Komorowski ranked first in most of the big cities; e.g. in Warsaw, Poznań, Wrocław and Kraków; Duda, however, reached almost two thirds of the rural population. This is particularly interesting; even though the farmers’ party PSL is PO’s coalition partner in government, a large majority of the PO’s voters and supporters still decided to vote for the PiS candidate.
While women voted for both candidates equally, men seemed to prefer Duda.
Highly qualified voters showed a tendency to favour Komorowski; a significant number of those less qualified, however, voted for Duda. On the other hand, Duda was strongly supported by university students.
Although Komorowski is largely considered a Catholic conservative politician, the Catholic Church quite openly backed Duda. On numerous occasions Komorowski referred to the Constitution which provides for an extensive separation of state and church. Duda, however, promised to advocate for a new constitution. Therefore, on the election day many priests called on church attenders to vote for the candidate who was most in conformity with the Gospel.
Even though the Polish legislation already features numerous rigid regulations in many areas such as family planning and topics which directly concern women’s rights (hardly comparable to any other EU country), those regulations may be even further tightened after Duda’s assumption of office. It can certainly be expected in any case that the new President who will assume office in August 2015 will not push for any much-needed liberalisation.
Translation: Veronika Peterseil
Text originally published in German at: http://www.rosalux.de/news/41526/praesidentschaftswahlen-in-polen.html