Polish Americans may know by now that Andrzej Duda defeated Bronislaw Komorowski in Poland’s May, 2015, presidential election. But, it is not surprising that they may not know much about him; he has not been in the political forefront recently.
Andrzej Duda, a 43-year-old conservative lawyer, has strong ties to the powerful Kaczynski twins.
The devout Catholic was close to the late president Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in 2010, and calls himself his “spiritual heir.”
However, Duda only became well-known after Lech’s twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former prime minister and current leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) conservative opposition party, crowned him presidential candidate.
PiS is the main opposition party to the governing centrist Civic Platform (PO) that has been in power since 2007, following a two-year PiS government.
Born in 1972 in the southern city of Krakow, Duda was a choir boy and Boy Scout in his early years before earning a law degree from the Jagiellonian University.
When PiS came into power in 2005, he was named Deputy Justice Minister, a job he gave up in 2008 to become an aide to Lech. He was elected to the Polish parliament in 2011, then to the European Parliament in 2014.
Duda has promised voters numerous social benefits in fiery campaign speeches, including introducing extra tax exemptions for large families and lowering the retirement age, which the PO government had gradually pushed back to 67 years. Some observers believe his pledges would be too much for the Polish economy to bear. “His promises go well beyond the powers of the president and his generous economic proposals could even ruin the (much larger) German budget,” said Radoslaw Markowski, a political scientist at the Polish Academy of Sciences. Others are confident it can be done.
In terms of foreign policy, Duda wants to strengthen ties with the NATO western defense alliance, amid security concerns over Russia’s activity in neighboring Ukraine. “The best course of action for Poland would be to have U.S. troops stationed on its territory. It’s the only way to guarantee the country’s security,” he said.
Duda says he opposes Poland’s entry into the Eurozone “so long as the standard of living of Poles remains below that of Germans or the Dutch.” Incumbent Komorowski also suggested care before adopting the Euro.
Like Poland’s Catholic Church, he also opposes in-vitro fertilization and came down hard on the 2011 Istanbul Convention, the world’s first binding legal instrument to prevent and combat violence against women, which Poland ratified last month.
Duda crisscrossed the country wooing voters and, five days before the first round of the election, won the support of the Solidarity trade union.
He is in favor of amending the constitution to make referendum proposals backed by at least one million signatures automatically go ahead. The parliament can currently veto proposals, and does.
Duda is married to a teacher, Agata, and has one daughter. His father-in-law is the Polish writer, poet and literary critic Julian Kornhauser.
Source: Polonia Media Network