After Poland’s Duda re-elected, hardline policy turn not inevitable
July 14 2020 12:37 AM

Poland’s governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) may enjoy a sympathetic president for another three years, but that does not necessarily mean the party will pursue hardline policies and further erode democratic institutions, as many fear.
Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, who is supported by the PiS, secured a second five-year term in office, after winning 51.1% of the vote in the run-off election, according to results from nearly 100% of constituencies.
For the first time since 1990, a candidate in the presidential election gained more than 10mn votes.
Duda’s rival, liberal Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski from the centrist opposition party Civic Platform (PO), won 48.9% of the vote, according to the tally.
This win “is not spectacular,” especially considering the investment made in Duda’s re-election “by all institutions of the state,” political scientist Ewa Marciniak from the University of Warsaw said.
The win might lead to a settling of political scores within the governing party, she said.
Beneath PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s iron rule, rivalries between those next in line may intensify.
Such infighting between PiS factions could be one factor determining whether the party, having secured a second term under a supportive president, will double down on hardline policies and further undermine the country’s democratic institutions.
“The fundamental question is how Duda will behave towards PiS plans for changes affecting the media and local governments,” political scientist and historian Antoni Dudek said.
According to Dudek, the president may be more independent now that he does not need PiS’ support for re-election.
Political scientist Jarosalw Flis agrees that hardline policies are not inevitable.
“After two-and-a-half years of electoral mobilisation, the party leadership may simply want to benefit from the power they have,” Flis said.
Also, PiS did not achieve the result it aimed for with its controversial judicial reforms and made numerous enemies along the way.
This may make the party think twice before embarking on similarly controversial attempts, Flis said.
He did not think the party was more likely to take a hardline turn than not.
Political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska from the University of Warsaw, however, had a more sobering forecast.
She expects PiS to clamp down on the freedom of courts, the media and non-governmental organisations, with the support of the president.
“I do not expect [Duda to be more independent], as in the five years that he’s been president, he showed no indication that would allow us to think that way,” she said.
Duda’s win may also trigger changes of political loyalties.
PiS may try to win over lawmakers in parliament to regain power in the opposition-controlled Senate and increase its advantage in the lower house, analysts point out.
The election result is likely to affect the opposition, too, in positive ways for the PO party.
“It’s a triumph of PO over the rest of the opposition,” analyst Dudek said. “PO maintained its status as the strongest opposition group. Any attempts to create a new entity in the political centre have no chance of succeeding.”
At the same time, analysts agree that if opposition parties presented a more united front, this could have given a further boost to Trzaskowski.
In terms of Europe, Duda’s re-election will mean a policy of continuity and what analyst Marciniak calls “cool pragmatism.” 
This, she said, would mean embracing the EU’s economic potential while creating an artificial dichotomy between “Polish” and “European” values.

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