Poland’s president hopes a Trump deal will help him win Sunday’s election – it may divide the country more

Donald Trump only embraces Duda’s re-election to pursue his ‘America first’ plan to sell armaments and increase the number of US troops in Poland

Pawel Latoszek
Saturday 27 June 2020 20:10 BST
The Polish president visited his US counterpart in the White House on Wednesday
The Polish president visited his US counterpart in the White House on Wednesday (EPA)

Tomorrow will see Poland’s citizens cast their votes in the country’s presidential election. The incumbent president Andrzej Duda has seen shrinking support since liberal Rafal Trzaskowski – mayor of Warsaw – joined the race after the May election was postponed.

In a stand-off scenario, should no candidate win an absolute majority of votes in the first round, the gap between Duda and Trzaskowski is gradually narrowing, with some polls suggesting the latter’s win.

Poland’s populist president decided to make a last-ditch attempt to restore his image in a bid for the election win by visiting the White House on Wednesday.

The visit came after his recent homophobic remarks that the LGBT+ community are not people alienated a huge proportion of his moderate electorate. The Second World War associations and religious minority organisations condemned the comments, outraged at the language he used.

Duda was the first head of state to visit Washington DC in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic that has already cost 127,000 American lives – the hardest hit country in the world.

The Polish media favourable to Duda could not miss out on this juicy opportunity and portrayed the incumbent president as the key contributor to the positive relationship with the US – a strategic and regional player who could secure the future of Nato’s eastern flank.

The president’s campaign team strongly hoped that Duda’s arrival in the US would be an immediate endorsement of the Polish leader due to the fact he was meeting with the leader of “the free world”.

He could attract more support from undecided voters had he secured a deal with the US military. It should not go without saying that the majority of Poles support the increased presence of US soldiers in Poland.

However, as no official declaration was presented, the public has viewed the meeting of both leaders as American interference in Poland’s domestic affairs.

“I believe he will be very successful in the upcoming election,” Trump said about Duda, who has not stopped the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s undemocratic changes to electoral and civil service laws, the independence of the judiciary, and public media.

In 2018, PiS changed the law so that parliament can pick members of a national council that nominates judges. And new controversial measures passed in December make it easier to dismiss judges who criticise further judicial reforms. Poland’s Supreme Court has even warned the country may have to leave the EU over the changes.

Trump believed in Poland’s “vigilant efforts to uphold the rule of law”, where the state of democracy dramatically deteriorated from the overall score of 7.09 in 2015 to 6.62 in 2019, according to the Democracy Index. In fact, the country is no longer rated as fully democratic.

Trump only embraces Duda’s re-election to pursue his “America first” plan to sell armaments and increase the number of US troops in Poland, for which Trump admitted Poland will be paying for, after Germany was not eager to spend more.

However, Duda will be happy to find the funds from Polish taxpayers, using the false success of achieving defence security in the region to justify it.

It is clear that Trump wants to sell whatever he can at the most profitable rate to American industry. Little does the public know, however, how much the shift of US forces to Poland will cost.

Indisputably, Duda will sign, without reservation, everything that Trump gives him, just like he always does with the government. The opposition cheekily attributed him with the nickname “Pen President”, as he does not perform his impartial function and adheres to the ruling party guidelines.

He is completely powerless and follows his big American brother – as nationalistic, homophobic, and populist as he is – to receive support that guarantees him a re-election bid, only to plunge the country into an even deeper divide.

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