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Sunday election in Poland a test for president and populism

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

President Donald Trump meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WARSAW – Poland’s right-wing president, Andrzej Duda, is fighting for a second term in an election Sunday that will test whether he was helped by a campaign that depicted LGBT rights as a dangerous “ideology” and an unconventional last-minute reception by President Donald Trump at the White House.

It will be another electoral test for populist leaders in Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last weekend, Serbia's autocratic right-wing president, Aleksandar Vucic, strengthened his hold on power there in a parliamentary election that was boycotted by opposition parties.

The Polish election is widely seen as an important test for democracy, in this case in the fifth most populous country in the 27-member European Union.

A crowded field of 11 candidates — all men — could make it harder for anyone to reach the required 50% of votes on Sunday, in which case a runoff will be held July 12.

Duda is backed by Law and Justice, a nationalist, conservative party that is popular with many for introducing welfare spending programs. Those policies have eased hardships for older Poles and others left behind in the dramatic economic transformation since communism fell in 1989.

“Poland has changed. It has changed for the better," Duda said at a rally on Friday, while promising to keep working to make sure Poles achieve Western European living standards.

Duda and Law and Justice, both in power since 2015, have also triggered tensions with the EU and provoked repeated street protests at home for controversial laws giving the party control over the top courts and other key judicial bodies.

Duda, 48, who trained as a lawyer, has signed most of those changes into law, and has been derided by his critics as a “Notary” or “The Pen” for approving changes that some legal experts say violate Poland's own constitution.