WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s conservative president, Andrzej Duda, promised on Monday to protect traditional Polish values from LGBT rights after a first round presidential election that garnered him the most votes, but forced him to leave.
Duda’s immediate return to a theme he has frequently raised during his campaign was an indication that he is running into a tight run with the centrist Mayor of Warsaw trying to win the votes of the extreme right, not the political center.
Nearly complete results from Sunday’s vote show that Duda, backed by the populist ruling Law and Justice party, obtained nearly 44% of the vote.
In second place was Rafal Trzaskowski, the pro-European mayor, with just over 30%.
The two will compete in a July 12 run that turns into a tense deadlock between two 48-year-old politicians representing opposite sides of a bitter cultural divide.
Whether Duda wins or not will determine whether law and law will maintain the power monopoly. In the past five years, the party has taken control of the country’s judiciary in ways that the EU considers to be a violation of democratic values.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which oversaw the elections, said it was conducted professionally. But it also said that the public TV broadcaster “became a sedentary campaign tool, with some reports showing distinct xenophobic and anti-Semitic undertones.”
“The campaign itself was characterized by negative rhetoric from the lead candidates that further exacerbated the already confrontational atmosphere,” the OSCE said in a statement. “Inciting language by the incumbent and his campaign was sometimes xenophobic and homophobic.”
While Trzaskowski left Duda behind on Sunday, he would likely get many voters in the run-up to the nine other candidates who have now been eliminated, including a progressive Catholic independent, Szymon Holownia, who won nearly 14%.
The nearly 7% of the votes that went to an extreme right-wing candidate, Krzysztof Bosak, are up for grabs.
On Monday morning, on state radio, Duda emphasized how his values match Bosak’s, calling same-sex marriage “ alien, ” and describing Trzaskowski as “ left. ”
Earlier this month, Duda said the LGBT rights movement promotes a position more dangerous than communism. Despite street protests in Poland and criticism from the EU, Duda seemed to return to that theme, albeit with a slightly weakened language.
He said that “ideological materials” should be kept out of schools and said that all pro-LGBT materials in school would remind him of his youth when the communist regime taught children an ideology and taught children something different at home.
Trzaskowski’s program advocates for allowing same-sex civil partnerships, but not for marriage, and he has largely avoided the issue on the campaign trail.
He, too, has tried to win some of Bosak’s voters by emphasizing their shared free market views.
Bosak is a legislator for the Confederation party, which first entered parliament last year with an anti-American and anti-EU program opposing LGBT rights.
The party’s pro-market positions have won some libertarians who oppose Law and Justice’s strong involvement in the economy.
Commentator and EU legislator Marek Migalski wrote on the right-wing Do Rzeczy news site that he expects Bosak voters to be “neutralized” during the runoff. He claimed that some will not vote, some will support Duda and some will “tactically” vote for Trzaskowski to weaken law and justice, which the Confederation sees as a rival conservative and nationalist force.
The offer for Bosak voters becomes even more complicated because they do not form a uniform block.
Anna Materska-Sosnowska, political scientist at the University of Warsaw, said that support for Bosak does not necessarily reflect the level of support for right-wing extremist radicalism in Poland, due to the way Bosak avoided radical public statements during the President’s campaign.
“He presented himself as a well-groomed, nice gentleman in a suit, who appealed to many that way,” she said.
Duda’s support reflects the popularity he enjoys with much older and rural Poles for Justice and Justice, the mix of social conservatism and generous welfare spending.
“I’m sure we can build a land of milk and honey here,” said Duda on Sunday evening in Strzelce, a village in central Poland.
“A country that will also be safe, free from terrorist threats, without often being the bane of Western Europe, a country based on tradition, based on its proven values,” said Duda.
The Polish Electoral Commission announced the results of the elections on Monday based on a count of nearly 99.8% of all votes.
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