WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish presidential hopeful Rafal Trzaskowski said he collected more than 1.6 million signatures within the week he was given to register for this month’s election, a sign the Warsaw mayor poses a serious challenge to nationalist incumbent Andrzej Duda.
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, whose relations with fellow members of the European Union have been strained over a raft of rights issues, were forced to pick a new date for the May 10 election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The party announced the new date of June 28 last Wednesday, setting off a race for Trzaskowski to gather the 100,000 signatures required to stand by a June 10 deadline. By midday on Tuesday he said had collected 1,622,868.
“Authorities have decided to hinder us and have given us only a few days to collect signatures,” Trzaskowski told supporters in front of the electoral office where he went to register. “They have released an incredible energy, an incredible wave of support that carries us.”
He represents the main opposition centrist Civic Platform (PO) party in place of Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, who resigned after her support plunged to 5% following her call for an election boycott over PiS’s plan to hold the vote by post.
The election is central to PiS’s efforts to cement its grip on power and pursue its conservative agenda. Duda, a PiS ally, is the frontrunner, but his lead has shrunk in recent days amid signs coronavirus restrictions will damage economic growth.
PiS has clashed with Brussels over climate change, refugees, government influence in state media and, most prominently, reforms to the justice system, which critics say are aimed at tightening the party’s grip over the courts.
Asked for his view on the reforms, Trzaskowski told Reuters he did not accept them. “There is no consent for breaking the constitution and for politicizing all institutions,” he said on his way to the electoral office.
The mayor, who was surrounded by hundreds of supporters chanting “thank you”, is standing on a pro-EU, centrist ticket and has supported IVF and LGTB rights, putting him at odds with the Poland’s influential Catholic Church.
Yet a recent opinion poll conducted for the right wing portal DoRzeczy.pl by Estymator pollster shows Trzaskowski just 2.2 percentage points behind Duda.
Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; editing by Philippa Fletcher