Voting has begun in a presidential election in Poland that is seen as a measure of support for the country’s right-wing government, which has clashed with the EU.
President Andrzej Duda, a 48-year-old conservative backed by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), is running against 10 other candidates as he aims for a second five-year term.
The incumbent has vowed to continue to back PiS’s economic programmes, which include generous social spending, and its policies to protect traditional family values in the predominantly Catholic country.
Since PiS came to power in 2015, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has taken legal action against Warsaw over allegations Poland is undermining democratic expectations by politicising courts.
If Mr Duda, a former PiS government junior minister and member of parliament, does not stay on as president, the ruling party could lose its near-monopoly on political power in Poland.
The most recent polls showed that none of the 10 candidates were likely to reach the 50% required to avoid a runoff.
That would mean the vote goes to a second round, with the top two going head to head on 12 July.
Mr Duda’s main challenger is Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who is backed by the centrist Civic Platform party.
Mr Trzaskowski has promised to keep Law and Justice’s popular social welfare spending programmes but said he will restore constitutional norms.
He was late to enter the race, and only did so after an election originally scheduled for 10 May was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Duda’s once strong support began to slip when coronavirus lockdown restrictions were lifted and other candidates were able to campaign.
The current president promised to defend traditional values while saying Poland would raise living standards to Western European levels.
He also positioned himself against same-sex marriage and adoption, and described LGBT rights as dangerous “ideology.”
The policies he supports, many of which have been advocated by senior figures in the PiS, have resulted in the party being labelled populist and nationalist.
Poland’s presidency has some responsibilities for defence and foreign affairs and can veto legislation.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who was appointed by Mr Duda, has a fragile parliamentary coalition and the election of a figure backed by another political party could result in the government of Mr Morawiecki governing as a minority cabinet.
In that event, an early national election would be a possibility.
Poland bans discussing opinion polls and campaigning after midnight on polling day.
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