Poland’s Election Shakeup: Right-wing PiS Party Faces Uncertain Future

The recent Polish general election indicates a potential shift in the nation’s political landscape. Preliminary exit polls suggest that the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, though leading, may not secure a third term. This paves the way for centrist opposition parties to form a potential coalition.

by Michael Scurry

The populist Law and Justice (PiS) party is projected to lead Poland’s general election, but may not attain a majority to form the next government, as per Ipsos exit polls. The PiS party, under Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s leadership, secured approximately 36.6% of votes, while the centrist opposition trails close behind with 31%.

This development hints at the possibility of Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition forming a new government. Tusk has been vocal about his intent to disrupt the eight-year reign of PiS. At a gathering in Warsaw, with the atmosphere resembling a victory celebration, he announced to cheering supporters, “Poland won, democracy has won. This is the end of the PiS government.”

While initial results favor the PiS, these results predominantly represent smaller towns and rural areas, traditional strongholds for the party. A subsequent Ipsos poll seems to support this early data.

The turnout for this election was remarkable, reportedly reaching 72.9%, a figure not seen since the post-communist era of 1989. Notably, the 18-29 age group saw a higher voter turnout than those over 60.

According to the latest data, PiS is predicted to gain 198 seats in the 460-seat Sejm (parliament). This would leave them short of the 231-seat majority. Furthermore, the far-right Confederation party, a potential ally, appears to have underperformed with an expected 14 seats.

Kaczynski cautioned his supporters, acknowledging the uncertainty of retaining power. Despite potential setbacks, PiS supporters remained hopeful, even as the party appeared to lose 37 seats from the 2019 tally.

The election was not without controversy. Kaczynski depicted his rival, Tusk, as a mere instrument of Berlin and Brussels. Tusk, however, countered by emphasizing the election’s significance for Poland’s European Union membership. He committed to mending ties with the EU and accessing the €36bn of EU Covid recovery funds, currently frozen due to PiS’s controversial judicial reforms.

If these polls hold true, Tusk’s Civic Coalition might explore forming a coalition with the likes of the centre-right Third Way and the left-wing Lewica.

Throughout Poland, the sentiment at polling stations was one of anticipation and determination, reflecting the high stakes of this election. Regardless of the outcome, Poland’s robust support for Ukraine, amidst Russia’s aggressive moves, is expected to remain constant, though some PiS leaders seemed to waver recently.

For many, including the significant expatriate population, this election holds immense importance. As Magdalena Bozek, voting in London, expressed, “It’s been quite a difficult eight years for us, for pro-Europeans.”

Emerging parties like the centre-right Third Way also made an impact, securing a predicted 13.5% of votes. Analysts suggest that an opposition triumph could usher in significant shifts in Poland’s domestic and European policies.

Poland’s electoral system, which encompasses 41 districts and operates on a proportional representation mechanism, means that expatriate votes contribute to the Warsaw district’s count. If the current situation persists, it may lead to a political impasse until December, leaving PiS as the interim government.

Additionally, Poles cast their votes for the Senate and participated in four referendums that seem tailored to appeal to the PiS voter base, including topics on retirement age and EU migration policies.

(Associated Medias | FAD) – All rights reserved