Voters lined up in masks at polling stations, but many relied on postal ballots to avoid the crowds. There were complaints that some Poles abroad did not receive their voting slips in time.
While Duda’s reelection had initially appeared to be a sure bet for the ruling party, polls in recent weeks have shown Trzaskowski gaining, with the vote expected to go into a runoff next month that is too close to call.
The vote had originally been slated to take place in May, with Law and Justice pushing to hold it despite the pandemic amid fears any delay could hurt their chances amid the economic knock-on and mounting scrutiny over how the government handled the country’s outbreak. But it was forced to delay on the insistence of one of its coalition partners.
A loss would be a major blow to Law and Justice, which has long wrangled with Brussels over what are seen as increasingly autocratic tendencies. European Union officials have censured Poland over its judicial reforms, treatment of minorities and failure to uphold the rule of law.
“Poland is terribly divided and people are getting discouraged,” Iwona Goge, a 79 year-old who voted for Trzaskowski in Warsaw, told the Associated Press. “It’s bad.”
As the polls have tightened, Duda fell back on anti-LGBT rhetoric in an apparent effort to galvanize his base, but this comments have caused a backlash even in staunchly Catholic Poland. Analysts point to the fact that Duda will also need to win votes from the center to win.
Members of Law and Justice had said they hoped Duda’s visit to Washington last week would boost his chances of reelection. But the trip fell short of initial expectations on the Polish side, with no firm details announced on the U.S. troop movement to Poland as hoped.
Warsaw has been lobbying for the United States to increase its security presence in Poland, which its officials say is even more important due to the U.S. announcement that it would withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany.
Speaking in the Rose Garden during Duda’s visit to Washington, Trump said he believed that the incumbent would be “very successful.”
Exit polls are expected when voting ends at 9 p.m. Warsaw time. If no candidate wins more than half the vote, the two front-runners will compete in a second round on July 12.