Poland’s Presidential Election Just Got a Little Less Predictable

The conservative opposition candidate unexpectedly gets more votes than the incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski.

Polish president Bronisław Komorowski poses for a photo with former prime minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw, November 18, 2011
Polish president Bronisław Komorowski poses for a photo with former prime minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw, November 18, 2011 (KPRM/Grzegorz Rogiński)

Incumbent president Bronisław Komorowski failed to come in first in the first voting round of Poland’s presidential election on Sunday, making the race a little less predictable than the Atlantic Sentinel thought.

According to an exit poll conducted for Poland’s main television news channels, Komorowski got 32.6 percent support against 34.5 percent for his main challenger, Andrzej Duda.

Komorowski is supported by the ruling Civic Platform while Duda is backed by the conservative Law and Justice party.

Earlier this weekend, we reported the two would get around 70 percent support together. But we predicted that Komorowski would at least get a plurality of the votes in the first round. Low turnout, at just under 50 percent, may be why the incumbent didn’t do better.

The Law and Justice party is popular in eastern, largely Catholic Poland while Civic Platform does best in those parts of the country that used to be German. Its liberal agenda also appeals more to urban than rural voters.

We still expect Komorowski to win the second voting round two weeks from now. He has been ahead in the opinion polls and most other candidates were either liberal or left-wing. Their supporters are more likely to back Komorowski than risk a victory for the social conservatives, even though the presidency has little real power.

The lukewarm show of support for Komorowski should nevertheless worry Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and her party as they prepare for parliamentary elections later this year. The move of her predecessor, Donald Tusk, to become president of the European Council has robbed the liberals of a popular leader. The Polish economy is doing better than most in Europe and expected to expand 3.2 percent this year. But unemployment remains high at 11.3 percent and wages haven’t kept up with growth. If Law and Justice can tap into Poles’ dissatisfaction, it may very well deny the Civic Platform and its centrist People’s Party coalition partner another majority.

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