Conservative Surprisingly Beats Poland’s Komorowski

Poland’s incumbent president is unexpectedly defeated in what is a setback for the ruling party.

An exit poll conducted for Poland’s major television networks showed the conservative Andrzej Duda beating incumbent president Bronisław Komorowski in a second voting round on Sunday. The surprising result reveals that dissatisfaction with the ruling Civic Platform is more widespread than it and many analysts had thought.

According to the poll, Duda got 53 percent support against 47 percent for Komorowski. Official results aren’t due until later this week but the incumbent quickly conceded defeat, saying, “It didn’t work this time. That’s how the voters in free and democratic Poland decided.”

Komorowski, a former defense minister and former speaker of parliament, did worse than expected in the first voting round earlier this month when he got 34 percent support again almost 35 percent for Duda. Liberal and left-wing candidates split the remainder of the vote.

The Atlantic Sentinel expected that the third candidates’ supporters would switch to Komorowski rather than risk a victory for Duda whose socially conservative Law and Justice party is otherwise polling below the Civic Platform at around 33 percent.

But given that the presidency holds little power, maybe anti-establishment voters felt safe to back Duda if only to oust Komorowski and send a message to the Civic Platform government. It has kept Poland’s economy humming through the euro crisis with growth expected to come in at 3.2 percent this year. But unemployment is also high at 11.3 percent and wages haven’t kept up with the economic expansion.

The move of popular Civic Platform leader and former prime minister Donald Tusk to Brussels, where he became president of the European Council last year, has also left the liberals without an articulate standard-bearer.

Tusk’s successor, Ewa Kopacz, is a technocratic former health minister who now seems less likely to win a third election in a row for Civic Platform. A strong showing for Law and Justice, which governed Poland between 2005 and 2007, could deny it and the centrist People’s Party another majority in parliamentary elections later this year.

Politico reports that Duda’s victory could also have implications for Poland’s foreign policy. The Civic Platform government was able to take advantage of a weakening Franco-German axis to position itself as an important ally of Berlin. Under the party’s leadership, Poland also took a hard line against its former Soviet master Russia.

A Duda administration is likely to be more pro-American and more Euroskeptic and less enthusiastic about nurturing close ties with Germany.