Poles on Sunday headed to the ballot box to vote in a delayed presidential election amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. for voters to elect a head of state from among 11 candidates, including incumbent President Andrzej Duda, who is seeking another five years in office.
President Andrzej Duda and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda cast their ballots in Sunday's vote. Photo: PAP/Łukasz Gągulski
The country’s governing conservatives last fall won parliamentary elections for a second consecutive term and were hoping to keep their grip on power by maintaining control of the presidency.
Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, garnered 41.8 percent of the vote on Sunday, according to an exit poll released seconds after voting ended at 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, centrist Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, a former government minister, won 30.4 percent, according to the survey by pollster Ipsos.
Opposition challenger Rafał Trzaskowski with wife Małgorzata outside a polling station in Warsaw on Sunday. Photo: PAP/Piotr Nowak
Celebrity journalist Szymon Hołownia was in third place with 13.3 percent.
Nonpartisan contender Szymon Hołownia (right) and wife Urszula Brzezińska-Hołownia (left) pose as they vote in Otwock near Warsaw on Sunday. Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański
Far-right hopeful Krzysztof Bosak finished fourth with 7.4 percent, ahead of leftist Robert Biedroń, with 2.9 percent, the exit poll found.
Euroskeptic candidate Krzysztof Bosak (right), a lawmaker with the far-right Confederation party, with wife Karina (left). Photo: PAP/Rafał Guz
Middle-of-the-road politician Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the rural-based Polish People’s Party (PSL), came in sixth with 2.6 percent.
The five other candidates—entrepreneur-turned-politician Marek Jakubiak, businessman Paweł Tanajno, politician and social activist Waldemar Witkowski, self-employed business owner Stanisław Żółtek, and academic Mirosław Piotrowski—shared the remaining 1.6 percent of the ballots cast.
Turnout was a record 62.9 percent, broadcaster TVP Info reported.
Voters line up to cast ballots in a polling station in Warsaw with coronavirus safety measures in place. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak
Duda, who became president in 2015, and Trzaskowski, who was elected mayor of Warsaw in October 2018, will now face each other in a second round of voting on July 12, if the exit poll numbers hold up.
The official results of the vote are expected to be announced over the next few days.
Under a set of rules approved by parliament and signed into law earlier this month, the election was conducted via a mixed system of postal and traditional in-person voting.
Polish election rules specify that if no presidential candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in a first-round contest, a second round is held two weeks later.
A record 387,000 Poles living abroad registered to vote in the presidential election by absentee ballot, according to a Polish deputy foreign minister.
The presidential vote was originally scheduled for May 10, but failed to go ahead amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a major re-election campaign speech, the incumbent president last month summed up his five years in office and outlined his second-term vision for Poland.
His rival, Trzaskowski, is a prominent opposition politician as well as a political scientist specializing in European studies. He was a European lawmaker from 2009 to 2013. He also served as Poland's administration and digitization minister from 2013 to 2014 and worked as a deputy foreign minister from 2014 to 2015.
Source: IAR, PAP, TVP Info