Polls began voting on Sunday in a presidential election that was originally scheduled for May, but was delayed by the coronavirus epidemic.
48-year-old conservative President Andrzej Duda, backed by the ruling party, is running against 10 other candidates as he seeks a second 5-year term. Most recent surveys have shown that no candidate was likely to reach 50% to avoid runoff. In that case, the two top vote getters will face each other on 12 July.
Polling stations will be open till 9 pm (1900 GMT) and exit polls will be announced shortly thereafter. The results of the final officials are expected to be latest by Wednesday.
Poland has not been badly affected by the epidemic in many countries of Western Europe, and most people were voting in person, although it was necessary to wear masks and follow other hygiene regulations. There was also a mail-in voting option, while in the southwestern regions with the transition to the thousands it was also necessary to vote by mail.
As of Sunday, there were approximately 34,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a nation of 38 million people, with some 1,400 deaths.
Elections take place between deep cultural and political divisions.
Duda, backed by the ruling Law and Justice Party, has launched a campaign focused on defending traditional values in a mostly Catholic nation while promising to raise the standard of living on par with the people of the West. He took a position against same-marriage and adoption and characterized the LGBT rights movement as a dangerous “ideology”.
Such rhetoric – along with laws that have given nationalist and conservative law and justice party too much control over the justice system and exploiting public media as a tool to boost the government’s image – has raised concerns among some Is – Poland is following Hungary in erasing democratic foundations.
Duda’s strongest challenge comes from the Warsaw mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski , 48 years old, supported by the Centric Platform Party.
On the campaign trail, Trzaskowski has promised to keep popular spending programs of law and justice to restore constitutional norms.
Trzaskowski entered the race late after the election originally held on May 10 due to the epidemic. Duda, once terrified of adultery coverage in the public media, once slipped after the ban was lifted and other candidates could campaign.
Voting ahead of Sunday’s vote suggested that Duda was the frontrunner on Sunday, but could not reach the 50% needed to win outright. Polls also showed he would have a more difficult time in the runoff, noting that many opposition votes would be expected to consolidate against Duda.
Other candidates include Szymon Holownia, a TV personality and journalist who once studied to become a priest. Holownia is unaffected by any party and has generated some enthusiasm among the nation’s two main parties Law and Justice and the Civic Platform for years.
Also in the race are a leftist politician who is Poland’s first openly gay presidential contender, Robert Biedron; Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, head of an agrarian party; And an MP with the far-right Confederation Party, Krzysztof Bosak.