Polish citizens are voting in a presidential election that will determine the fate of the east European country’s nationalist makeover.
After voiding a ballot in May due to the coronavirus pandemic, Poland on Sunday held the first of an expected two rounds of voting to determine whether to re-elect President Andrzej Duda. More than 27,000 polling stations catering to 30 million potential voters was expected to close at 9 pm
(3 pm EST), when an exit poll will be published.
Turnout at noon stood at a record 24.1%, compared with 14.6% at the same time five years ago, according to the State Electoral Commission. Voters queued early to avoid the usual afternoon rush, especially as
social-distancing restrictions slowed work at polling stations.
The campaign has been tough for the incumbent as the virus crisis pushes Poland into its first recession in three decades. Leading opposition candidate Rafal Trzaskowski, the mayor
of Warsaw, tapped into the
discontent with his “We’ve had enough!” rally cry, while Duda turned to familiar tactics when his popularity dipped.
“People are voting so that politicians remember them” during the crisis, said Magda Michalska, 34, a teacher in Rawa Mazowiecka, a town of 18,000, 50 miles from Warsaw.
Now the country will decide whether the leadership will get carte blanche to complete its project by re-electing a president whose job has been to endorse its power grab. The risk for an EU grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout is that Poland goes the way of Hungary, already seen by many in Brussels as a lost cause.
US think tank Freedom House said that given Poland’s current trajectory, it may not even
be considered a functioning democracy by the end of Duda’s potential second term.
Some 191,000 Poles registered to vote by mail amid concerns over the pandemic, while a further 370,000 will vote abroad. Much of the international vote will take place by post, with Polish embassies and consulates in countries with high virus infection rates deciding not to open their doors for would-be voters.