The two men fighting for Poland’s future

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The two men fighting for Poland’s future


Andrzej Duda and Rafal Trzaskowski

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Andrzej Duda (L) is facing Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski

Poland’s presidential election on Sunday will be crucial in shaping the country’s future and its strained relations with the EU for at least the next three years and perhaps beyond.

Why run-off presents Poles with clear choice

If the incumbent President Andrzej Duda is re-elected for another five-year term, his allies, the nationalist Law and Justice-led government will continue their socially conservative policies, efforts to control independent institutions and generous state handout programme.

If the more liberal mayor of Warsaw, Rafal Trzaskowski, wins, he has said he will stand up for minorities and use the president’s right to veto legislation to block what he sees as the government’s attempts to politicise the judiciary and attack democratic values.

Mr Trzaskowski says he will co-operate with the government but a victory for him would almost certainly start a war between the two branches of power.

Both men have distinct visions for the future of Poland.

What does Andrzej Duda believe?

President Duda, 48, is a lawyer by training. He won a surprising victory in 2015 representing the young, moderate face of the Law and Justice party, which had lost a string of elections under all powerful party leader and candidate, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

He is a socially conservative Roman Catholic, who says he wants to defend the traditional family model.

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The socially conservative Mr Duda has a lot of support in small towns and villages

On the one hand, he supports the government’s popular and generous welfare scheme, symbolised by the 500+ programme, under which families receive 500 zloty (£100; €110; $125) per month for each child until the age of 18.

Many Polish families have been lifted out of poverty as a result of the government’s policies, and, for the first time since the end of communism in 1989, feel there is a party that cares about their needs.

This is especially true in villages and small towns, where President Duda won an absolute majority of votes in the first round of the election two weeks ago.

On the other hand, he has vowed to protect Polish families from whathe calls an imported “LGBT ideology”that is aggressively trying to sexualise Polish children.

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Media captionPoland has been called the worst country in the EU for LGBT rights

In practice, sex education classes in Polish state schools do not exist.

Instead students have more wide-ranging “family life education” classes, which may include sex education, often led by priests or nuns.

President Duda is also a supporter of the government’s legislative changes to take greater control over independent institutions, most prominently the public media and judiciary.

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