Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus ­čö┤Children in Peril Quarantine Families Core values App Listen Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption Supporters attend a rally of a candidate in Poland's presidential election, Warsaw centrist Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski on the last day of campaigning before Sunday's vote, in Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, June 26, 2020. Trzaskowski is a major challenger to incumbent conservative President Andrzej Duda who is seeking a second five-year term and is leading in the polls. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's right-wing president, Andrzej Duda, is fighting for a second term in an election today that will test whether he was helped by a campaign that depicted LGBT rights as a dangerous "ideology" and an unconventional last-minute reception by President Donald Trump at the White House.

It will be another electoral test for populist leaders in Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last weekend, Serbia's autocratic right-wing president, Aleksandar Vucic, strengthened his hold on power in a parliamentary election that was boycotted by opposition parties.

The Polish election is widely seen as an important test for democracy, in this case in the fifth-most-populous country in the 27-member European Union.

A field of 11 candidates -- all men -- could make it hard for anyone to reach the required 50% of votes, in which case a runoff will be held July 12.

Duda is backed by Law and Justice, a nationalist, conservative party that is popular with many for introducing welfare spending programs. Those policies have eased hardships for older Poles and others left behind in the dramatic economic transformation since communism fell in 1989.

"Poland has changed. It has changed for the better," Duda said at a rally Friday, while promising to keep working to make sure Poles achieve Western European living standards.

Duda and Law and Justice, both in power since 2015, have also triggered tensions with the EU and provoked repeated street protests at home for controversial laws giving the party control over the top courts and other key judicial bodies.

Duda, 48, who trained as a lawyer, has signed most of those changes into law, and has been derided by his critics as a "Notary" or "The Pen" for approving changes that some legal experts say violate Poland's own constitution.

The European Union has strongly condemned the judicial laws as violations of democratic standards. This year the U.S.-based group Freedom House downgraded Poland in its ranking from "consolidated democracy" to "semi-consolidated democracy."

"The destruction of the democratic state of law is close to completion," said Jaroslaw Kurski, editor of the liberal daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, in an appeal this week for readers to choose a democratic candidate.

"If we, citizens, democrats, do not mobilize, the next elections will be as 'democratic' as in Belarus, Russia or Hungary," Kurski wrote.

Duda's biggest challenge appears to come from the liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who belongs to the pro-EU and pro-business Civic Platform party.

That party governed from 2007-15, with Donald Tusk as prime minister until 2014, when he left Poland to become president of the European Council.

Civic Platform oversaw strong economic growth but is now blamed by many for pro-market policies that helped businesses but allowed poverty to fester and economic inequalities to grow.

On the campaign trail, Trzaskowski, 48, has promised to keep Law and Justice's popular spending programs while vowing to restore constitutional norms.

Duda has dropped his anti-gay language in recent days, saying at a rally Friday that "in Poland there is place for everyone."

The election comes four days after Duda was hosted by Trump, who praised Poland for its "rule of law."

"He's doing a terrific job. The people of Poland think the world of him," Trump said Wednesday at a news conference with Duda.

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 17, 2020 file photo,  Mayor of Warsaw and candidate for Poland's president of main opposition party Civic Platform and Civic Coalition's Rafal Trzaskowski waves to supporters after the presidential debate at Polish Television headquarters held for the upcoming elections, in Warsaw, Polands current President Andrzej Duda is the frontrunner ahead of the election on Sunday, June 28, but polls show him unlikely to achieve the majority needed to win outright. That will require a runoff two weeks later in which he is expected to face off against Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a very close race.  (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 17, 2020 file photo, Mayor of Warsaw and candidate for Poland's president of main opposition party Civic Platform and Civic Coalition's Rafal Trzaskowski waves to supporters after the presidential debate at Polish Television headquarters held for the upcoming elections, in Warsaw, Polands current President Andrzej Duda is the frontrunner ahead of the election on Sunday, June 28, but polls show him unlikely to achieve the majority needed to win outright. That will require a runoff two weeks later in which he is expected to face off against Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a very close race. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
President Donald Trump meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Polish President Andrzej Duda waves to supporters as he campaigns for a second term in Serock, Poland, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Duda is the frontrunner ahead of the election on Sunday, June 28, but is not expected to reach the 50% threshold needed to win outright. That will require a runoff two weeks later in which he is expected to face off against Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a very close race.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Polish President Andrzej Duda waves to supporters as he campaigns for a second term in Serock, Poland, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Duda is the frontrunner ahead of the election on Sunday, June 28, but is not expected to reach the 50% threshold needed to win outright. That will require a runoff two weeks later in which he is expected to face off against Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a very close race.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Supporters attend a rally of a candidate in Poland's presidential election, Warsaw centrist Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski on the last day of campaigning before Sunday's vote, in Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, June 26, 2020. Trzaskowski is a major challenger to incumbent conservative President Andrzej Duda who is seeking a second five-year term and is leading in the polls. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Supporters attend a rally of a candidate in Poland's presidential election, Warsaw centrist Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski on the last day of campaigning before Sunday's vote, in Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, June 26, 2020. Trzaskowski is a major challenger to incumbent conservative President Andrzej Duda who is seeking a second five-year term and is leading in the polls. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
An electoral poster for left-wing candidate Robert Biedron is seen, in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Biedron, who is openly gay, is currently at below 10% in the polls for Sunday's presidential election. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
An electoral poster for left-wing candidate Robert Biedron is seen, in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Biedron, who is openly gay, is currently at below 10% in the polls for Sunday's presidential election. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Candidate in Poland's presidential election, Warsaw centrist Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski addresses supporters on the last day of campaigning before Sunday's vote, in Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, June 26, 2020. Trzaskowski is a major challenger to incumbent conservative President Andrzej Duda who is seeking a second five-year term and is leading in the polls.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Candidate in Poland's presidential election, Warsaw centrist Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski addresses supporters on the last day of campaigning before Sunday's vote, in Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, June 26, 2020. Trzaskowski is a major challenger to incumbent conservative President Andrzej Duda who is seeking a second five-year term and is leading in the polls.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Polish President Andrzej Duda waves to supporters as he campaigns for a second term in Serock, Poland, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.Duda is the frontrunner ahead of the election on Sunday, June 28, but is not expected to reach the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright. That will require a runoff two weeks later in which he is expected to face off against Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a very close race.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Polish President Andrzej Duda waves to supporters as he campaigns for a second term in Serock, Poland, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.Duda is the frontrunner ahead of the election on Sunday, June 28, but is not expected to reach the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright. That will require a runoff two weeks later in which he is expected to face off against Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a very close race.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Rose Garden of the White House, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Rose Garden of the White House, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT