Andrezj Duda, Poland’s incumbent right-populist candidate is the winner of the second-round of presidential elections. Ava DeSantis writes why Duda is not comparable to American conservatives.
President Andrzej Duda won 51.2% of the votes, defeating his challenger, Rafal Trzaskowski. This was the slimmest election victory since 1989 when Poland became a capitalist country. Duda is a social conservative, and Trzaskowski is the socially liberal mayor of Warsaw. Duda opposes abortion, and LGTBQ+ rights, which he called an “ideology” more destructive than communism.
Duda is a Trump ally. Last month, Duda visited the White House and made a joint statement with President Trump celebrating the “centuries-old friendship and partnership” between the U.S. and Poland. Trump said, “I can say that President Duda is doing very well in Poland. He’s doing a terrific job. The people of Poland think the world of him.”
Duda’s reelection campaign focused on his economic policy and opposition to LGBTQ+ rights, and used antisemitic tropes to portray Trzaskowski as beholden to foreign Jewish interests.
President Trump is also hostile to LGBTQ+ Americans and takes on other classically socially conservative issues, including abortion. Trump said on the campaign trail “no, I’m just not in favor of gay marriage.” At the anti-LGBTQ Family Leadership Summit, Trump declared himself in favor of “traditional marriage.”
Not a Trump ally on economics
While President Trump’s rhetoric aligns with Duda’s social conservatism, the two leaders diverge on economic policy. President Duda notably instated a child allowance and a lower pension age, which pulled many Polish citizens in rural areas out of poverty. Duda railed against Soviet-era communism but favored supporting social safety nets over cutting them.
Duda gave a monthly cash payment of 500 zlotys, about $125, to families for each dependent child under 18, regardless of income. He also lowered the retirement age for men and women, raised pensions, cut prescription costs, and instated yearly cash payments for pensioners.
Trzaskowski, Duda claimed, would cut welfare spending programs if the country elected him instead of Duda. His opponent’s pro-business party rejected increased welfare spending when it was in power between 2007 and 2015.
Duda said he “[wants] a Poland which knows how to protect the weakest.” One supporter claimed Duda gained public support because the President followed through on this vision. Ryszard Sadowski, a 72-year old interviewed at a Duda rally, explained “from the moment when the money started coming to the families, suddenly everyone is happy.”
Trump opposed the continuation of federal unemployment compensation and other aid to American citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Trump said privately that he did not want federal aid programs to be extended past July 31st, it’s original expiration date.
Republican leaders in Congress also opposed the extension of the aid. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said the unemployment extension “would not be in the next bill.” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, promised “over our dead bodies will this [federal unemployment extension] get reauthorized.”
Melissa Rusk, from Bradenton, Florida, said federal support is “just about life or death in some situations. It can potentially mean the difference between being able to help my husband pay bills like groceries or car payment.”
43% of American adults, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, say they or someone in their household lost a job or took a cut in pay due to the outbreak. Duda’s victory is a good sign for Trump if, in the 2020 election, Americans vote on social issues, not economics. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, induced an economic recession which makes the success of Trump’s reelection campaigning doubtful.