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Warsaw, May 25: Conservative opposition challenger Andrzej Duda won Poland’s presidential run-off, exit polls showed, trumping incumbent centrist Bronislaw Komorowski on promises of generous social spending. An MEP and lawyer with a populist streak, Duda scored 53 per cent support ahead of Komorowski, who mustered 47 per cent, exit polls showed, giving a key indicator of the national mood ahead of an autumn parliamentary election. Analysts said voters hungry for change in the EU and NATO member state could oust the governing centrist Civic Platform (PO) in this year’s parliamentary polls and return the controversial Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to power after eight years. (READ: David Cameron’s Conservatives defy forecasts, win British polls) Also Read - Onlookers Horrified as Drunk Man Tries to Drown Bear in Warsaw Zoo After Entering Its Enclosure
Speaking to wild applause at his Warsaw campaign headquarters, Duda said: “Thank you, President Bronislaw Komorowski for the rivalry of this presidential campaign and for your congratulations.” “Those who voted for me, voted for change. Together we can change Poland.” Komorowski was quick to concede defeat yesterday and said his loss was also a warning signal to his political allies in government. “This is the decision of the citizens of a free and democratic Poland, so I congratulate my rival, Mr Andrzej Duda and I wish him a successful presidency because I wish Poland well,” he told supporters in Warsaw. Also Read - Covid-19 Crisis: As India Enters Lockdown 2.0, Here's The Quarantine Status In Other Countries
“Duda’s victory signals a dramatic change on the Polish political scene,” legendary communist-era dissident Adam Michnik said, warning that a potential victory of Kaczynski’s PiS in parliament could mean that “Poland embarks on a velvet road to dictatorship.” The Polish president has limited powers but is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, steers foreign policy and has the right to introduce and veto legislation. Duda has called for NATO to station its troops on Polish soil, amid heightened tensions with Soviet-era master Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
But he has been less enthusiastic about Poland entering the eurozone, which he believes Warsaw should only do once the European single currency has solved all its debt woes. If official results on Monday confirm a Duda victory, he will take up his new office in August. Given his close affiliation with Kaczynski and the PiS opposition party, Duda’s cohabitation with the PO government of Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz is expected to be difficult. A former defence minister who has been president since 2010, the 62-year-old Komorowski is allied with the PO. A largely lacklustre campaign for the presidential race focussed on security and social issues and saw Komorowski’s initially strong lead melt away.