Thursday 29 September 2016

Polish president concedes election defeat to conservative challenger

* Exit poll shows Andrzej Duda to be new president
* Some Poles don't feel benefit of strong economy
* Defeat may foreshadow later parliamentary election

Wiktor Szary and Agnieszka Barteczko

Published 24/05/2015 | 23:07

Poland's President and presidential candidate from the Civic Platform Party (PO) Bronislaw Komorowski (C) reacts next to his wife Anna after the announcement of the first exit polls in the second round of the Polish presidential elections, at his election campaign headquarters in Warsaw, Poland May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kuba Atys/Agencja Gazeta
Poland's President and presidential candidate from the Civic Platform Party (PO) Bronislaw Komorowski (C) reacts next to his wife Anna after the announcement of the first exit polls in the second round of the Polish presidential elections, at his election campaign headquarters in Warsaw, Poland May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kuba Atys/Agencja Gazeta
Andrzej Duda (L), presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), gestures to his wife Agata (C) and their daughter Kinga after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda (2nd L), presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), celebrates with his wife Agata and their daughter Kinga after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda (2nd L), presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), flashes victory sign next to his wife Agata and their daughter Kinga after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda, presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) reacts after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski conceded defeat to conservative challenger Andrzej Duda in Sunday's presidential election, a result that will set alarm bells ringing for the government, which faces its own election race later this year.

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Komorowski had originally been seen as a shoo-in for another term in office, and his defeat reflected a desire among voters for new faces, and a sense that Poland's new-found prosperity was not being shared out equally.

The outgoing president, an ally of Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, announced he was conceding defeat after an exit poll showed he had won 47 percent to 53 percent for Duda. Official results have not yet been released.

"I respect your choice," Komorowski told a gathering of supporters. "I wish my challenger a successful presidency."

The victory for 43-year-old Duda marks the first major electoral win in almost a decade for his party, the opposition Law and Justice party. It is close to the Catholic church, socially conservative, and markets see it as less business friendly than the governing Civic Platform.

Read more here: Polish president concedes poll loss  

Andrzej Duda, presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), his wife Agata (R) and daughter Kinga sing national anthem after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda, presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), his wife Agata (R) and daughter Kinga sing national anthem after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda, presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), kisses his wife Agata (2R) as their daughter Kinga watches after the announcement of the results of exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015 REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda, presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) reacts after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. Andrzej Duda's shock win in Poland's presidential election has capped a rapid rise from backroom obscurity to head of state, and may herald a new political chapter in eastern Europe's biggest economy. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Poland's zloty currency was down one percent against the euro after the exit poll was released, a sign some investors are already expecting a change in government.

In Poland, the prime minister leads the government but the president is head of the armed forces, has a say in foreign policy and in the passage of legislation, and also controls who heads the central bank.

Duda served as legal adviser to former conservative President Lech Kaczynski, was a deputy justice minister, a member of the Polish parliament, and is now a member of the European parliament.

He has yet to spell out explicitly how he will use his new powers, but he could promote a more sceptical approach to the European Union, and block socially-liberal initiatives such as a proposed law that would support in-vitro fertilisation.

"I deeply believe that we can reconstruct our community. I am convinced that we can be together, that we can improve our country," he said in a victory speech.

DIFFICULT QUESTIONS

Andrzej Duda (L), presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) flashes a victory sign next to his wife Agata and daughter Kinga (both covered) after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda (L), presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) flashes a victory sign next to his wife Agata and daughter Kinga (both covered) after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Andrzej Duda, presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) addresses his supporters after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta
Andrzej Duda (C, back), presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) flashes a victory sign after the results of the exit polls on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

His win throws down a gauntlet to the governing centre-right Civic Platform party.

Eight years in power, the party has presided over rapid economic growth and rising salaries in eastern Europe's biggest economy.

But despite unprecedented prosperity, many Poles feel the fruits of their labour have been unfairly spread, resulting in increased inequality, and are eager for new faces at the top.

"Economic growth? For the average citizen it is hardly perceptible," said Zbigniew Pela, 53, a railway worker who was voting for Duda on Sunday. "They create good living conditions for some social groups, who have their businesses, and not for ordinary citizens."

Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said Sunday's result was a serious warning for Civic Platform. "We have to ask ourselves difficult questions ahead of the next elections," he told public broadcaster TVP Info.

Reuters

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