The ruling Law & Justice party is ahead, according to exit polls, but not by enough to hold onto power
Poland’s centrist, pro-EU political opposition is poised to take over from the conservative ruling Law & Justice (PiS) party, according to an Ipsos exit poll released following Sunday’s elections, which show PiS in the lead but not by enough to retain control of the government.
Opposition leader Donald Tusk, the former European Council president who now heads the Civic Coalition party that joined the Third Way alliance and the Left party to form what appears to be the winning faction, hailed the vote results as “the end of the bad times, the end of Law & Justice rule.”
While the poll had PiS finishing in first place with 37% of the vote, giving it the first pick to form a governing coalition, the next three placers – Civic Coalition at 32%, Third Way at 13%, and the Left at 8.6% – won enough support to block PiS’ efforts, leaving it only the right-wing Confederation party (with just 6.2% of the vote) as potential ally.
“Never in my life have I been so happy about taking seemingly second place,” Tusk, who served as Poland’s prime minister from 2007 to 2014, told supporters in Warsaw on Sunday. “Poland won, democracy won.”
Victory for the opposition would bring Poland back into the bosom of the EU, which has punished PiS for challenging the supremacy of EU law over Poland’s own by withholding over €35 billion ($37 billion) in aid during the party’s eight-year reign.
PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński also declared the party’s electoral results a great success, but not great enough.
“The question before us is whether this success will be able to be turned into another term of office of our government,” he told supporters at party headquarters on Sunday, urging them to “have hope” and vowing that “regardless of whether we are in power or in the opposition, we will implement this project.”
Preliminary results suggest the opposition will control the lower house of parliament, known as the Sejm, with 248 of its 460 seats to PiS’ 200. Final vote numbers are expected by Tuesday.
PiS ran on a platform of tougher migration policy (despite a recent cash-for-visas scandal), increased social spending, military strength, and backing Ukraine against Russia without allowing cheap Ukrainian grain to decimate Polish farmers’ livelihoods. All three opposition parties ran on improving relations with the EU, including by reversing PiS’ judicial reforms and liberalizing abortion and LGBT policy.
Media coverage of the election has framed it as the most important in Poland’s post-communist history to explain how voter turnout – including a record 600,000 Poles living abroad – exceeded even the percentage who flocked to the polls in 1989 in the country’s first democratic elections.
October 16, 2023 at 04:20AM