Polish Election: How Trzaskowski closed the gap on Duda – but ultimately fell short

ANDRZEJ Duda’s election victory was much closer than expected due to the three-month election delay, an expert has told Redaction Politics.

Professor Aleks Szczerbiak told this publication back in April that the incumbent was likely to coast to victory in the originally scheduled May election.

However, his challenger saw his stock rise massively in the three-month delay to polling day, forcing a second round in which he came just 0.8 percent behind the incumbent.

The expert explained: “Andrzej Duda was the beneficiary of a thing that political scientists call the ‘Rally effect’ – when there is a national crisis and perception of an external threat, people tend to rally around their political leaders and state institutions.

“In the short-term, (the incumbent’s) popularity tends to go up.”

Due to the pandemic, he continued, other parties were unable to campaign effectively because of an inability to canvass or hold public rallies.

Duda, meanwhile, enjoyed free campaigning and publicity from simply carrying out his state duties.

After the first wave of the pandemic subsided, however, experts could see that polling day would be close-run.

READ MORE: Poland Elections will likely strengthen the right amid coronavirus pandemic, expert claims

Professor Szczerbiak said: “The election essentially became a plebiscite on the Law and Justice government and Poles and divided down the middle to whether they support them.

“What we’ve seen with the result is, once again, the election returned to being a referendum on a polarising government, with attitudes evenly divided.”

In April, polls suggested that Duda would be re-elected in the first round of voting, such was his lead over Civic Platform.

However, the delay allowed the main opposition party to change their poorly-performing candidate Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska with the popular Warsaw Mayor, which triggered an immediate poll rise.

He added: “Duda and the Law and Justice Party were worried – there was a serious danger they could lose, and when the exit poll came out, the numbers were even closer.”

“Kidwawa-Błońska was having a terrible crisis and was down to 4-5 percent in the polls.

“Just by rebuilding Civic Platform support, he was able to develop a sense of momentum which put Law and Justice on the back foot.

“Their support fell as the Rally effect waned, and Trzaskowski gave the optical illusion of a rapidly narrowing gap, but in actual effect, it was just a return to pre-pandemic politics.”

Trzaskowski may have been a “comfortable” opposition leader for Duda to face, however, as he never really threatened to take any of Law and Justice’s traditional electoral base.

Aleks Szczerbiak is Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies at the University of Sussex.

Featured Image: Radosław Czarnecki @WikimediaCommons

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