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Rivals in Poland election runoff get no help from also-rans

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish President Andrzej Duda and his runoff election opponent are getting no declarations of support from candidates who competed in the first round and whose voters could prove key in deciding the outcome of Poland's presidential election.

The July 12 runoff will determine if the country's conservative ruling party will continue to have an ally in the president's office as it pursues its policies, including efforts to take political control of the judiciary that have drawn condemnation from the European Union. The party, Law and Justice, backs Duda's reelection.

Official final results issued Tuesday from the first round of voting showed Duda with 43.5% of the vote and centrist Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski with 30.46%, confirming the need for a runoff. The voter turnout Sunday was 64.51%, a record in Poland's more than 30 years of democracy. Duda and Trzaskowski, have resumed traveling across Poland to meet with potential voters as part of what is expected to be an aggressive runoff campaign focused on discrediting each other.

The two are also seeking to win the votes of nine other candidates from across the political spectrum who competed in the election's first round. But the two strongest also-rans, maverick Catholic TV personality Szymon Holownia, who finished third with 13.87% of the vote, and far-right candidate Krzysztof Bosak who came in fourth with 6.78%, have refused to encourage their supporters to now back Duda or Trzaskowski.

Bosak said his Confederation party would “keep equal distance” from both finalists. He told his supporters to vote in the runoff “according to your conscience, according to your mind.,” Choosing between Trzaskowski or Duda was like choosing between “an open enemy and a false friend, and you don’t know which is worse,” he said.

Duda has already bowed toward Bosak's nationalist backers and Trzaskowski has mentioned similarities with those who have strong liberal views on the economy. According to the Confederation party's strategy, it can only grow when Law and Justice party that has governed Poland since late 2015 is weakened. Law and Justice is backing Duda's reelection for a second five-year term.

Holownia's supporters would seem a natural source for more votes for Trzaskowski. But the TV presenter said Tuesday that his young movement would not lend its backing elsewhere, though he said he personally planned to vote "against Andrzej Duda's idea of presidency.”

Duda is trying to ascribe the problems Poles encounter in their lives to the opposition party Civic Platform, which governed Poland in 2007-2015, and to Trzaskowski, its deputy leader. Trzaskowski argues that Duda follows the ruling party’s line too closely, telling voters that “hard times are coming, and we need a president who would watch the government’s hands.”

The remaining candidates in the first round won less than 3% of the vote, including Poland's first openly gay presidential candidate, Robert Biedron, who finished with 2,22%.

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