It was an event – or rather two events – that marked the symbolic nadir of 30 years of rancorous political division in Poland since the fall of communism in 1989.
Poland’s conservative president, Andrzej Duda, and his challenger in Sunday’s presidential election run-off, the liberal mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, each held their own separate “presidential debate” in different parts of the country, each boycotting the other’s event and each fielding questions alone next to an unmanned podium bearing the name of their rival.
Poles face a momentous decision on the country’s future, with the upcoming presidential election serving as a referendum on the “Third Republic”, the liberal democratic constitutional order established after communism’s demise.
It is a political choice neatly personified by the two candidates. Both aged 48, they were born just four months apart. Both went to prestigious high schools in major cities, and each has a doctorate from one of Poland’s two leading universities. Both have also represented the same parliamentary constituency of Duda’s hometown, the historic southern city of Kraków.
Their backgrounds, however, are markedly different – illustrating the fissures of class, culture and geography that perpetuate the country’s political polarisation, and lending an element of psychodrama to Sunday’s proceedings.
You can read my report for the Guardian here.