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Duda's Economic Populism

Poland's New President and the Future of Neoliberalism

A woman votes inside a polling station during the second round of presidential elections in Torun, Poland May 24, 2015. Mikolaj Kuras / Reuters

On May 24, the 43-year-old conservative lawyer, Andrzej Duda, a fresh face on Poland’s political scene, defeated incumbent Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski by a narrow margin in the presidential run-off vote. Duda’s victory, based on a platform of economic populism, reveals a deepening disaffection with neoliberal economic reforms not just in Poland, but throughout Eastern Europe. First Russia and then Hungary embraced statist and nationalist economic policies that broke with the free market policies of the past two decades. Now Poland, one of the six largest economies in the European Union, appears ready to take this path too.

It would be highly symbolic if Poland abandoned neoliberalism, since it has been Eastern Europe’s trendsetter for neoliberal reforms. In 1990, then Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, battling the legacies of communism and facing the prospect of hyperinflation, orchestrated a nearly overnight switch from a socialist economy to a market-based one under

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