Exit polls in Poland’s presidential election suggest that incumbent Andrzej Duda has finished first but without enough votes to win immediately.
If confirmed, Duda, a conservative, will face Warsaw Liberal Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in the second round in two weeks.
Polls suggest Duda got just under 42% of the vote and Trzaskowski just over 30%.
Participation was high despite the coronavirus and restrictions on social distancing.
President Duda is an ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party and, if he loses, the opposition could push for major changes in Polish politics.
The president has the power to veto the legislation, so Duda’s reelection would be beneficial to PiS, of which he used to be a member.
Trzaskowski, meanwhile, has vowed to heal the cracks with the European Union. Duda’s allies have frequently clashed with the bloc over controversial reforms to the judiciary and the media.
Trzaskowski rose quickly in the polls after joining the race in May. Previously a member of the government of the Donald Tusk Civic Platform, he won the mayor’s race of the capital in 2018 promising “Warsaw for all”.
“This is a watershed moment. Much will really depend on this decision,” said Poland’s anti-communist hero Lech Walesa while voting in the northern port of Gdansk.
Last week, Duda traveled to Washington and received a strong endorsement from President Donald Trump.
“He is doing an excellent job,” President Trump said, in what was widely seen as an internal boost for Duda. “The people of Poland think of his world.”
Poland’s elections were due to take place in May, when Duda was higher in the polls and more likely to win in the first round.
Although the epidemic had not yet peaked, the government was desperate for the May vote. He finally backed off when a junior coalition partner joined the opposition in saying PiS was putting politics ahead of public health.