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The Polish Opposition’s Last Chance

After ignoring public-health warnings in an effort to secure its hold on the presidency, Poland's illiberal ruling party has been forced to backpedal, for now. But if the leading opposition candidate cannot maintain his current momentum in the polls, the country's authoritarian subjugation will be complete.

WARSAW – Poland’s democratic opposition is approaching its last chance to stop Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński from consolidating his illiberal populist regime. His puppet, Polish President Andrzej Duda, is up for re-election, and Kaczyński is so keen to clinch a victory that he initially resisted postponing the May 10 election, despite the obvious risk to public health amid the pandemic.

The resulting public confusion would have guaranteed Duda victory in the first round. But the election did not take place on May 10, owing to a revolt by Agreement, a small party whose leader, Jarosław Gowin, had hitherto been loyal to Kaczyński. PiS has since been forced to postpone the election, but Duda still has a good – albeit worsening – chance of securing a second term, regardless of the date.

Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, the previous candidate from the largest opposition party, Civic Platform (PO), had a strong start in February, but polled increasingly poorly over the course of the pandemic. Owing to PO’s indecisiveness on whether to boycott the May 10 vote, her support fell from about 30% to as low as 2-3%, and she has since dropped out of the contest.

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