Poland begins voting in presidential election after COVID-19 delay
Concerns over democratic standards and bread-and-butter issues top the agenda as Poles began voting on Sunday in round one of a tight presidential race that had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Incumbent President Andrzej Duda, 48, is campaigning for re-election in a vote that could determine the future of the right-wing government that supports him.
Ten candidates are vying to replace him, but opinion polls show that Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a liberal from the main Civic Platform (PO) opposition party, will enter a neck-and-neck run-off on July 12.
Victory for Trzaskowski, also 48, would deal a heavy blow to the Law and Justice (PiS) government, which has relied on its ally Duda to endorse polarizing legislation, especially judicial reforms.
While the PiS insists the changes are needed to weed out judicial corruption, critics and the European Union insist they erode judicial independence and democracy.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who regards the populist PiS administration as a key European ally, gave Duda his blessing this week.
Trump invited him to the White House on Wednesday as the first foreign leader to visit since the coronavirus pandemic began, just four days ahead of election day.
Originally scheduled for May, the ballot was postponed due to the pandemic and a new hybrid system of postal and conventional voting was in place on Sunday in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
While official figures show over 33,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,400 deaths, the health minister has admitted that there are likely up to 1.6 million undetected cases in Poland, an EU country of 38 million people.