Poland's Recent Election
Recently, a very impactful election has taken place in Poland. On October 15th, 2023, a nationwide parliamentary election was held, and the implications may stretch beyond just Poland itself, but to many other neighboring nations in the region.
For almost a decade, the Law and Justice (PiS) Party has been dominant in Polish politics as they have held a ruling majority in the parliament since 2015.
Over this time, the far-right, socially conservative PiS party has consistently restricted immigration and abortion rights in the country. They have incorporated the catholic church more closely into government and eroded democracy in Poland. The Law and Justice Party has also increasingly distanced themselves from the European Union, which Poland is currently a part of.
By exercising quasi-autocratic control over both the parliament and the courts, and by having a strong base of popular support, the PiS party and their allies have been able to illiberalize Poland gradually.
Until the most recent election was finalized, many people speculated that the 2023 election would be just another victory for the PiS party.
This assumption, in my opinion, was not unfounded. For one, the ruling party had been in power for eight consecutive years, giving it a certain precedent or establishment that people found reliable. Additionally, Poland is generally considered a relatively conservative country, so it would make sense for the main conservative party to receive the most popular support.
However, somewhat shockingly, that is not what happened. In the 2023 election, the PiS party received only 35.38% of the vote.
Although this is technically the most votes any party received overall, it still means that the Law and Justice Party will lose its majority and, as a consequence, also its current Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
This is because various opposition parties formed a coalition. A coalition in this context is essentially a cooperative of separate political parties that agree to work together to potentially get elected and build a government.
The center-left party Civic Coalition, center-right party Third Way, and left-wing party Lewica formed a coalition government and received 30.7%, 14.4%, and 8.6% of the vote respectively.
These unified three parties, when tallying up all their respective votes, got approximately 53.7% of the Polish vote, placing them firmly as the victors.
While a transition of power has not begun yet, it is expected that Donald Tusk, head of the Civil Coalition Party, will become the next prime minister.
There were initial fears that the currently still ruling PiS party would engage in an autocratic attempt to hold on to or severely delay the transition of power.
However, this is not probable since the leadership of the PiS party has already publicly admitted their loss, something that most political parties intending to exercise a coup would not say.
So, it is fortunately unlikely that a similar power grab will take place in Poland like it did in the United States and Brazil in recent years.
But how did the ruling party suddenly, and quite abruptly, lose the election after being dominant for eight years?
For one, the formation of a cohesive, effective coalition government helped unify the otherwise divided opposition parties.
Additionally, there has been a surge in young voter turnout. These young voters between the ages of 18 and 24 are predominantly concentrated in more highly educated, urban areas. The vast majority of the young voters in Poland supported the opposition coalition to the PiS party.
The implications of these results will be significant. The new government that will soon be ushered in will probably attempt to repair Poland’s democracy, remove long-standing PiS laws, and perhaps even remove some of the abortion restrictions implemented by the ruling party in the past.
From an international perspective, these results will also have a major effect. The elected coalition will probably be more supportive of Ukraine than the PiS party was, and will likely continuously send Zelensky military supplies and humanitarian aid to combat Russia’s war.
Additionally, the rejection of the PiS party in this recent election may establish a new political precedent in Eastern Europe.
You see, in the past several years, many Eastern and Central European countries have been adopting an increasingly nationalistic and autocratic stance.
In Hungary, for example, President Orban has been consolidating power and attempting to turn the country into an autocracy. Similar fascist leaders have been elected in Italy and Turkey.
And a victory against these nationalist movements, like in Poland, might represent a change.
Finally, the new projected government will strengthen ties with the European Union.
In the end, we do not definitively know what will happen in future elections, or how the newly elected parties will actually govern and we do not know if the PiS party will be reelected with a majority in the following election.
However, this recent election nonetheless represents a definite change in Polish politics, and possibly an entire regional change across Eastern and Central Europe.
Image credit: Wikipedia Commons