The foreign press covering the second round of the Polish presidential election has focused its coverage on the narrow margin with which incumbent president Andrzej Duda was reelected as well as the ideological and social polarisation dominating the Polish political scene.
Adam Easton, the BBC correspondent in Warsaw, reported that despite the fact that the second round was the closest race in any presidential election since Poland regained its independence in 1989, the high turnout means that President Andrzej Duda has a clear mandate to rule.
The British reporter highlighted that the victory ends an electoral cycle.
"President Duda's victory means that the ruling Law and Justice party can now pursue its programme until the next parliamentary elections in three years' time. The presidential elections were the most even since the fall of communism in 1989, but the high turnout means that President Duda has won a clear mandate". - writes Easton in a short analysis about what Andrzej Duda's victory means for Poland and the European Union.
He also stressed that the government’s social assistance programmes helped the president in the campaign, writing "despite the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has committed itself to continuing its popular social assistance programmes that have helped many Polish families out of poverty”.
Easton expects further tensions in Poland's relations with the EU in connection with the government’s intention to complete its judicial reform started 4 years ago. He also speculates that the ruling Law and Justice party may be tempted to use Andrzej Duda's victory to increase political control over local authorities and private media.
"Duda's victory shows that there is a strong electorate in favour of social conservatism and generous state benefits. But an even-handed vote also suggests that many in Poland are concerned about the government's attempts to introduce a more illiberal democracy". - concludes Easton.
The Financial Times (FT) centred its coverage on the increasing polarisation of the Polish political scene, with its heavy focus on identity issues.
"The election campaign, conducted for almost half a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement of the initial vote planned for May, became a bitter struggle between two colliding visions of Polish identity", the newspaper writes
The FT continues by stating that Andrzej Duda started his campaign by positioning himself as a supporter of the large infrastructure projects planned by the Law and Justice party, such as the construction of the Central Transportation Hub and the canal on the Vistula Spit. He also portrayed himself as the only one who could guarantee the party’s generous social programs, which have significantly improved the lives of many poorer Polish families. However, Financial Times notes that as the race was becoming increasingly even, he increasingly sought support by presenting himself as a bastion against foreign threats to traditional Catholic values in Poland.
Commenting on the result of the incumbent President’s rival, Rafał Trzaskowski, Financial Times writes that the Warsaw Mayor tried to repel Andrzej Duda's attacks by avoiding to talk about LGBT rights and promising not to end the social assistance programs introduced by the Law and Justice party. In contrast to the large infrastructural projects championed by President Duda, Trzaskowski promised small-scale investments that would be noticeable in people’s daily lives. According to FT, he also promised to repair Poland's ragged relations with the EU and attacked President Duda for not standing up to the Law and Justice party on more occasions.
On the other side of the Atlantic Sea, the Washington Post summarised the election by writing that “the election result is a blow to the liberals who hoped that Rafał Trzaskowski's victory could bring about a staggering change in Polish politics, allowing the pro-EU candidate to veto laws passed by the right-wing government, which has a majority in Parliament”.
The narrow vote, the importance of its result for the EU and the high-level of ideological polarisation were the common threads in many of the reports found in the foreign press following the 2020 Polish presidential election.