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Polish presidential election heads to runoff, exit polls show

Polish President Andrzej Duda did not win enough of the vote in Sunday’s election to avoid a runoff, according to exit polls, forcing him into what is expected to be a tightly fought head-to-head race with the liberal mayor of Warsaw.

Duda, candidate of the governing populist party, Law and Justice, is set to win 41.8 percent of the vote, according to the exit polls, while Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski is expected to win 30.4 percent. Turnout was high, at 62.9 percent.

While Duda remained comfortably ahead, analysts say that will change during a runoff election in two weeks, as opposition voters whose support had been split in the first round unite around Trzaskowski.

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‘‘It will be close,’’ said Malgorzata Bonikowska, president of the Warsaw-based Center for International Relations. ‘‘People are voting for two different Polands. They are like fire and water.’’

The vote has the potential to reshape Poland’s relationship with Europe. Duda is a figurehead for the Law and Justice political program that has put it on a collision course with the European Union. Brussels accuses the government of threatening the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Trzaskowski, a former member of the European Parliament, is known to have more amicable relations with Brussels. At a jubilant election night event, Trzaskowski said the choice for voters would be between an ‘‘open Poland’’ and one that is ‘‘looking for an enemy,’’ with a president who is trying to divide.

At his event, Duda maintained that his advantage was ‘‘enormous’’ and said the choice was between ‘‘development’’ and a deterioration of the lives of normal Poles under the opposition. Social benefits for families have been a major pillar of Law and Justice policy.

The vote had been slated for May, with Law and Justice pushing to hold it despite the pandemic because any delay could hurt its chances amid the resulting economic crisis and mounting scrutiny over how the government handled the outbreak. But it was forced to delay on the insistence of one of its coalition partners.

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As the polls tightened, Duda fell back on anti-LGBT rhetoric in an apparent effort to galvanize his base, but his comments caused a backlash even in staunchly Catholic Poland.

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 movement of US troops to Poland.

Warsaw has been lobbying for the United States to increase its security presence in Poland, which its officials say is even more important because of the US announcement that it would withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany.

Voters also went to the polls for municipal elections in France on Sunday. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo declared victory in her fight to win reelection in the French capital.

Hidalgo, a Socialist Party member, beat conservative candidate Rachida Dati, according to estimations based on partial results. She is backed by the Europe Ecology-The Greens party, which gained strong influence nationwide. Green candidates won in France’s major cities including Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.