Poland will hold the first round of its presidential election on 10 May, the speaker of parliament announced on Wednesday (5 February), with incumbent President Andrzej Duda tipped as the favourite.
Despite enjoying a strong lead in opinion polls, surveys suggest that Duda, who is allied with the governing right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party, is unlikely to clinch a first-round victory.
He is expected to face liberal opponent Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, from the main opposition Civic Platform party, in a 24 May run-off.
Half a dozen candidates are expected to throw their hats into the ring to contest round one on 10 May, the date announced Wednesday by parliament speaker Elzbieta Witek.
They include centrist-Catholic newcomer Szymon Holownia, openly gay leftist MEP Robert Biedron, farmers’ party leader Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz and far-right MP Krzystof Bosak.
The election is overshadowed by a long-running controversy over the PiS government’s judicial reforms that critics, including the European Commission and top European judicial bodies, say undermine judicial independence and the rule of law.
Duda came under fire on Tuesday after he signed into law controversial legislation aimed at disciplining judges who question the judicial reforms.
Poland’s human rights commissioner and opposition politicians immediately criticised the move as undermining judicial independence, calling it a first step in the direction of a “Polexit” out of the EU’s legal order.
In late 2017, the EU launched unprecedented proceedings against Poland over “systemic threats” posed by the reforms to the rule of law that could see its EU voting rights suspended.