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Populists eye victory in Poland on promises of prosperity

Populists eye victory in Poland   on promises of prosperity

Warsaw: Poles were voting on Sunday in a an election the governing populists look set to win after a flurry of generous welfare measures coupled with attacks on LGBT rights and western values but their majority could be at risk.

Author Olga Tokarczuk, a known government critic who won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, gave the opposition an unexpected last-minute boost, urging Poles to choose wisely "between democracy and authoritarianism," calling the vote the "most important" since Poland threw off communism in 1989.

In office since 2015 and led by ex-premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has focused on poorer rural voters by coupling family values with a popular new child allowance, tax breaks for low-income earners and hikes to pensions and the minimum wage.

Widely regarded as Poland's de facto leader, Kaczynski has stoked deep social division by attacking sexual minorities and rejecting Western liberal values, all with the tacit blessing of Poland's influential Catholic Church which holds sway over rural voters. Kaczynski is among several populist leaders in the European Union favouring greater national sovereignty over the federalism championed by powerhouses France and Germany.

The PiS has also sought close ties with the Trump administration. Poland has long regarded the US as the primary guarantor of its security within the NATO alliance and as a bulwark against Russia, its Soviet-era master with whom tensions still run high.

"The PiS takes care of workers, they raised the minimum wage and created the 500+ child allowance," Michal, a 34-year-old Warsaw electrician and PiS supporter told AFP after voting in Warsaw.

"In foreign policy, the PiS is standing up for Poland, not just blindly agreeing to what Germany or France want," he added, declining to provide his full name.

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