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Opinion

Poland opts for change

Can new Polish President-elect Andrzej Duda distance himself from his Mentor Jaroslaw Kaczynski? If not, his election will amount to a negative signal for Germany and Europe, according to Bartosz Dudek.

By the first round of the presidential election it was clear that the incumbent president, Bronislaw Komorowski, who until recently was Poland's most popular politician, had a serious rival. Now Andrzej Duda, the newcomer, has actually achieved what he set out to do. He won the run-off election, taking 52 percent of the vote.

Komorowski, who was lulled to sleep by his earlier numbers in the opinion polls, misread the mood of the country. His statesmanlike style was in stark contrast to the approachable "candidate of the people" Duda. It was younger voters in particular who desired a change. Plagued by high unemployment and lack of opportunity, they gave their votes to the youthful 42-year-old on whom they pin their hopes.

More than anything else, Duda's victory amounts to a yellow card for the liberal citizens' platform, which had governed since 2007; Komorowski's political home. His defeat could be an omen of a victory for the national-conservative camp in the parliamentary elections to be held in the autumn.

Dudek Bartosz Kommentarbild App

Bartosz Dudek is the head of DW's Polish service

More than a figurehead

Duda's electoral victory could have a negative impact on Europe and German-Polish relations in particular. This is because the until recently unknown Duda was chosen by the head of the Law and Justice party (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which he represents in the European Parliament. Kaczynski's time as prime minister, from 2005 to 2007, is regarded as the low point in relations between Germany and Poland in the recent history of the two nations.

The uncompromising stance on European issues and harsh criticism of Russia at the time made Poland a problem child of the international community. Whether Duda will continue such policies will depend on whether he has the will and the skill to act independently of his mentor.

In Poland, the post of president is more than just ceremonial. He does have a say, particularly when it comes to foreign and defense policy and has the power to veto legislation. A Poland that is unstable in terms of domestic politics and unreliable in terms of foreign policy could make the currently tense international situation even more complicated. Such a scenario could become closer to reality with this autumn's parliamentary elections.

What do you think of the Polish president-elect? What will his election mean for Europe and German-Polish relations? Let us know in the comments section below.

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