BBC News – Europe
Poland’s incumbent President Andrzej Duda holds a slim lead in the country’s presidential election, according to an exit poll.
The poll on Sunday showed Mr Duda, an ally of the conservative government, with 50.4% of the vote.
He was pitted against the socially liberal Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.
The vote has been widely seen as a battle for the country’s future as well as its strained relations with the European Union.
Mr Trzaskowski got 49.6%, according to the exit poll, which pollster Ipsos said had a margin of error of two percentage points. Official results are expected on Monday.
“I want to thank everyone that voted for me,” Mr Duda told supporters shortly after the exit poll was announced.
A win for Mr Duda is expected to herald controversial changes to the judiciary and continued opposition to abortion and gay rights.
He came under fire during the election, including for a speech in which he said LGBT rights were an “ideology” more destructive than communism.
Speaking on the last day of campaigning on Friday, Mr Duda said he would continue strengthening the Polish state, “built on our inviolable tradition which is sacred to all of us and in which we have been brought up for generations”.
Mr Trzaskowski, meanwhile, has backed a more progressive agenda and active role in the European Union. The liberal politician rose fast in the polls after joining the race in May. Previously a member of Donald Tusk’s liberal Civic Platform government, he won the capital’s race for mayor in 2018 promising “Warsaw for All”.
He said Polish voters would never have another chance to change Poland’s direction.
“Everything is in your hands,” he said on Friday. “This [electoral victory] is really at your fingertips. I want to tell you ‘now or never’ because this Law and Justice road roller will try to run over everything and the next election could be very difficult.”
Mr Duda topped the first round of voting last month with a convincing lead but fell short of the 50% needed to win outright.
The election had been due to take place in May, when Mr Duda was higher in the polls and stood a better chance of winning in the first round.
Although the coronavirus pandemic had not yet peaked, the government was desperate for the May vote to go ahead. It eventually backed down when a junior coalition partner joined the opposition in saying the governing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party were putting politics before public health.