Poland before the presidential election: a country in battle mode
Andrzej duda comes too late. His supporters stand crowded in the sweltering summer heat on the market square in starachowice. They are waiting for the campaign appearance of the polish president, who hopes to be re-elected on sunday.
Sudden movement at the edge of the marketplace: a small group unrolls a poster of rafal trzaskowski – duda’s challenger. He is not well liked here.
"Thieves, thieves!", roars the crowd of duda fans and drives the group in front of him. A pensioner beats trzaskowski’s supporters with a broomstick. A woman shouts at him: "shame on you!! March, to church and confess everything to the priest!"
The mood in the country is charged before the 12. July. Then the poles decide in a runoff election who will be their new president: andrzej duda, who has the support of the national conservative ruling party pis. Or warsaw’s mayor rafal trzaskowski of the liberal-conservative burgerkoalition (KO). Polls show it will be close: duda has 46 to 47.3 percent of the vote, traskowski 45.9 to 47.5 percent.
Both candidates are 48 years old, have a doctorate and a family. But that’s where the similarities end. Duda scores points in the countryside and in the conservative, catholic-influenced south and east. Trzaskowski in the big cities, the north and the west.
In the small town of starachowice in southern poland, where the church towers behind the crumbling houses on the market square, duda is in his element. The spirited speaker has a flair for populist tone. He pays up the social benefits introduced by the pis government: 500 zloty (about 113 euros) child benefit per child, a 13. Pension payment, reduction of value-added tax on foodstuffs. "You will notice this when you go shopping!" Shouts the president. The crowd chants: "thank you! Thank you!"
From the edge of the marketplace, however, the sound of "ra-fal" can be heard! Ra-fal! Free courts!"The troop of trzaskowski’s supporters has set up on the stairs of a paint store and is making a lot of noise from there – guarded by a dozen police officers.
Duda says what pays for him: "the family, the family, again the family". That’s why he wants to enshrine in the constitution that adoption of children by homosexual couples will be banned. Long applause. "I think it’s good that it’s for the traditional family," says piotr gawlik (18), who is doing an apprenticeship as a mechatronics technician. And karolina (30), an insurance employee and mother of two children, adds: "the children now have a completely different life thanks to the child allowance. We can go to the swimming pool, even courses outside the school are in it."
Scene change. Trzaskowski’s campaign staff has set up two lecterns in lodz’s fubganger zone with its spruced-up old buildings before his appearance. One is for the candidate himself – the other has a sign on it that says: "andrzej duda". An allusion to the fact that the challenger accuses the president of avoiding a TV duel with him. According to duda, however, it is the other way around.
Lodz is poland’s third most populous city. Trzaskowski, a smart guy with a fashionable three-day beard and study experience in oxford and paris, is well received here. He has many uncomfortable questions for the imaginary duda at the empty lectern: "where were you when the freedom of the courts was restricted? Who rides in the electric cars they wanted to have built in poland? Why do you sign laws in the dark?"Trzaskowski has announced that as president he wants to reverse the controversial judicial reforms of pis.
Adam pierzchala (19) wants to elect trzaskowski. "He is open and eloquent, stands up for the rights of women and LGBT people," says high school graduate. For manager aleksander sucharkiewicz something else counts. Trzaskowski speaks five languages and will straighten out poland’s relationship with the EU, the 43-year-old hopes. "Duda focuses only on the u.S."
The runoff between duda and trzaskowski is the fourth duel since 2005 in which a pis candidate and a liberal-conservative contender face off. The battle between the two camps has since become increasingly bitter. In the first round of voting, the turnout was already 61.7 percent – in the second round, it was allowed to be even higher. The question now is who will profit from it in the end.