Polish president attacks LGBT rights as he heads to runoff

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President Andrzej Duda flashes victory signs after voting ended in the presidential election in Lowicz, Poland, Sunday, June 28, 2020. The election will test the popularity of incumbent President Andrzej Duda, who is seeking a second term, and of the conservative ruling party that backs him. Exit poll shows incumbent Andrzej Duda with most votes in Polish presidential vote, but short of first-round win.(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

WARSAW – Poland's conservative president, Andrzej Duda, promised Monday to protect traditional Polish values against LGBT rights after a first-round presidential election that gave him the most votes but forced him into a runoff.

Duda's immediate return to a theme that he has raised frequently during his campaign was an indication that he is heading into a tight runoff with Warsaw's centrist mayor by seeking to win the votes of those on the far right, not the political center.

Nearly complete results from Sunday's balloting show that Duda, who is backed by the populist ruling Law and Justice party, won nearly 44% of the votes.

In second place was Rafal Trzaskowski, the pro-European Union mayor, with slightly over 30%.

The two will face each other in a July 12 runoff that is shaping up as a suspenseful standoff between two 48-year-old politicians who represent opposing sides of a bitter cultural divide.

Whether or not Duda wins will determine whether Law and Justice will keep its near-monopoly on power. Over the past five years the party has taken control of the country's judicial system in a way that the EU has denounced as violating democratic values.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the election, said that it was professionally run. But it also said that public TV broadcaster “became a campaign tool for the incumbent, while some reporting had clear xenophobic and anti-Semitic undertones.”

“The campaign itself was characterised by negative rhetoric by the leading candidates that further aggravated the already confrontational atmosphere,” the OSCE said in a statement. “Inflammatory language by the incumbent and his campaign was at times xenophobic and homophobic.”