Warsaw (hooly News) – The Polish head of state, the conservative Andrzej Duda, candidate for his re-election, is forced to a second round on July 12 by his liberal rival Rafal Trzaskowski, at the end of the first round Sunday.

Andrzej Duda obtained the support of 41.8% of Poles while the mayor of Warsaw was supported by 30.4% of the voters, according to this poll carried out by the IPSOS institute after the closing of the polling stations.

"The advance is enormous and I am grateful to you for that," said Mr. Duda, 48, during his election night in Lowicz in central Poland.

For the liberal candidate, the second round will be "a choice between open Poland (…) and those who seek conflicts all the time".

"I will be the candidate for change", promised Mr. Trzaskowski, also 48 years old, whose watchword is "We have had enough" and who has many reasons to hope for the support of a good share of voters of other competitors.

The election campaign was dominated by concerns over the state of democracy and social issues, as Poland faces its first recession since the end of communism.

Poles moved en masse to the polling stations and the turnout was 62.90%, according to the same poll.

– Controversial reforms –

Duda is supported by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), considered a key ally of US President Donald Trump, while European partners in Warsaw criticize his reforms, believing that they are eroding democracy, barely three decades later the fall of communism.

A victory for Mr. Trzaskowski, would strike a heavy blow on the government of the Law and Justice party (PiS), which was the source of a series of controversial reforms, notably in the area of ​​justice.

Kazimierz Kik, a professor of political science at the University of Kielce (south), said Duda had "greater potential" than Trzaskowski to mobilize voters who stayed at home on Sunday.

But, according to political scientist Stanislaw Mocek, the president of the Collegium Civitas University in Warsaw, it is Trzaskowski who "has a good chance of winning" the second round.

Mocek warned that "there is a risk of a brutal campaign", especially if Duda appealed to voters on the far right, whose candidate also obtained a good result in Sunday's vote.

According to an express study carried out after the announcement of the poll at the exit from the polls, and published Sunday evening by TVN television, Duda can count on 45.5% of the votes, against 44.7% for Trzaskowski, 9.9% Poles remaining undecided.

"This is a defining moment. A lot will really depend on this decision," said anti-communist icon Lech Walesa while voting in Gdansk, a clear plastic visor on his face.

Walesa, who was elected the first democratic president of Poland in 1990, is a harsh critic of the current government.

– "For democracy" –

"I voted for Trzaskowski of course! Why? For democracy, the judiciary and respect for minorities," Joanna Ugniewska, 66, told hooly News after voting in downtown Warsaw.

But in Tarnow, in southern Poland, a stronghold of PiS, Andrzej Guzik says he voted for Duda because of his stature as president.

"Personally, I only see Duda as president," said the 52-year-old employee of the state-owned gas company PGNIG.

The Polish government has in recent years introduced a series of popular social benefits which Trzaskowski has committed to keep in the event of a victory.

– Anti-gay rhetoric –

Duda's victory should cement the grip of the ruling party – at least until the next legislative elections in 2023.

But his defeat could see his influence crumble and trigger early elections.

During the campaign, Mr. Duda fueled controversy by supporting PiS attacks on gay rights and Western values.

He compared "LGBT ideology" to a new form of communism.

Mr. Trzaskowski, he defends the rights of homosexuals and said he was open to the idea of ​​civil partnerships of the same sex.

These critics point to weaknesses in his party and denounce a mixed record of his first year at the head of the Warsaw city hall.