PiS is the winner

The final results are in. Law and Justice (PiS) wins in Poland for ECR. It shall bring in 26 MEPS, 27th in-waiting until Brexit. The European Coalition’s 22 MEPs could be divided – most likely – into two groups in the European Parliament, 5 would go to the S&D and 17 to the EPP. The Spring has 3 MEPs, including its chairman, Robert Biedroń, who announced that the Spring shall join one of the progressive groups. It may be S&D or the Greens or ALDE 2.0, depending on the talks Mr Biedroń has in the upcoming days.

The numerical results are the following:

  • The turnout: 45,68%, the highest in the history of Polish EU elections, and the biggest increase in the 2019 elections throughout the Union (+22pp). Some 13.6 million people voted.
  • Law and Justice: 45,38%, or 26 (+1) MEPs, and some 6.2 million voters. This is the highest support PiS has ever had in any party elections in Poland.
  • European Coalition: 38,47% or 22 MEPs, and some 5.2 million voters.
  • Spring: 6,06% or 3 MEPs, and 827 thousand voters.

The openly anti-Semitic, homophobic and hostile towards the outside world Confederacy scored 4,55% or 621 thousand voters.

What happened

The European Coalition lost big. The Law and Justice won big. The impact of the turnout is important, too. High turnout has pushed down the support for the smaller parties, the Spring and Confederacy alike, and even more for Kukiz’15 and United Left. Who turned out were the PiS voters.

Law and Justice was able to motivate the electorate to show up, and this is remarkable, for in the past the European elections were not as important for the PiS electorate. Still, the high degree of politicisation has pushed both sides of the political debate to motivate, motivate, motivate. Clearly PiS is more successful in the process.

Roman Giertych, a former anti-European campaigner and a former leader of the League of Polish Families (LPR) and education minister in the Jarosław Kaczyński government in mid-2000s, today is a popular attorney-in-law. He defends, for example, the Austrian businessman in a case against the PiS chairman, and Donald Tusk in many cases against him. Mr Giertych today sides with the European Coalition, though he remains true to his conservative believes. Mr Giertych writes on his Facebook about the results: “In my opinion, the reasons for the failure are three: mass distribution of money, turning TVP into purely party television and a major turn to the left that took place at the opposition. Because for the first two reasons we can not do anything, we need to focus on the third reason” and concludes that the biggest mistakes was the LGBT declaration signed by Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, progressive interviews given on the issue by a number of politicians, the parades and Leszek Jażdżewski’s liberal attack on the Catholic Church.

This is a popular opinion after the elections. Many publicists, including well known liberal ones, like Tomasz Lis, write disillusioned that the responsible for the loss are Robert Biedroń (for dividing the opposition into two camps) and Leszek Jażdżewski (for launching a ‘war on the Church’). The pro-PiS conservative pundits agree, but are not mourning. Quite to the contrary, they are celebratory.

What happened was a major mobilisation on the day, on both sides. And the countryside made the difference. Five years ago in many rural areas the turnout was in single digits. On 26 May – some 40%, on average. The cities voted, too, but it was not a +30pp increase, about 50-55% in the larger cities and Warsaw’s 62.5% did not topple the overall results.

The cities voted liberal. Warsaw voted 50% for EC, 27% for PiS, 10% for the Spring. Gdańsk voted 60% for EC, 27% PiS. The conservative Kraków – 44% EC and 36% PiS. The liberal Wrocław 50% for EC and 30% for PiS with 9% for the Spring and the very liberal Poznań 54% for KE, 24% for PiS and 11% for the Spring. In Łódź, the last of the big cities – 54% for KE, 30% for PiS and 7% for the Spring.

It matters that 40% of Poles live in the countryside. This time the countryside voted, en masse, over 55%, for PiS. As a leading sociologist Jarosław Flis explains at a Stefan Batory Foundation post-electoral event (or a disillusioned mourning…): “The countryside is twice the size of the six largest cities”. Trying to stay positive, professor Flis says, “there are still major reserves ahead of the fall parliamentary elections” and there are 2-4 million more potential voters out there.

The smaller cities and towns were more nuanced. As professor Flis says, “the middle ground is like like the whole of Poland”.

What’s Next

The October elections. Most likely October, but the final decision on the date has not been taken yet. Few people pay attention to the European Council meeting or the European Parliament struggle for power when it comes to Spitzenkandidate. The real questions are: will the European Coalition survive this way or another? How celebratory Law and Justice can be? It seems the stage is set: Law and Justice fights to continue its mono-rule, a government of one party without a coalition partner. The Opposition’s lines of defence are: (1) to gain a constitutional majority against PiS; (2) to gain a governmental majority against PiS; (3) to force PiS into a minority rule (for example by controlling the Senate); (4) to force PiS into a coalition government with another party; (5) to prevent a constitutional majority of PiS when the party rules on its own.

It seems we are in territory (5). The Opposition is defending the Constitution from being amended by Law and Justice. This is clearly a retreat from other options, which were on the table before. At least those are the moods.

So, Law and Justice, after initial celebrations, re-forming of the government (quite a few of ministers are changing jobs and are leaving for the EP), will fight for a constitutional majority. The ruling party is on the offensive!

It is unclear if the European Coalition will go as one block. The Spring already announced it will not join the Coalition. The Polish People’s Party (PSL) is seriously debating whether it should leave the ranks of the Coalition and go on their own. The only wholeheartedly pro-maintaining the Coalition are the left-wing SLD, who is a clear winner with 5 MEPs within the Coalition.

Elżbieta Łukacijewska

There is a major reflection in the ranks of the Civic Platform. The newly re-elected MEP Elżbieta Łukacijewska was attacked by the party leader Grzegorz Schetyna. First, this 2-term MEP was not positioned as the list leader, as she was a leader back five years ago. Ms Łukacijewska was a candidate no. 10. And she won a seat. Not only that, she carried out Cisna, a commune in the Podkarpacie region, where Law and Justice won with overall 60% support. Mr Schetyna tweeted about Łukacijewska win in Cisna: “People from outside. Externals. Many from Lower Silesia, from Wrocław”, to which Ms Łukacijewska responded “Grzegorz, the inhabitants of Cisna are not ‘people from outside‘, we are all locals here. It is a wonderful community, hospitable, open and entrepreneurial. I am proud that I live in Cisna and I thank all my neighbours for their votes for KE. For sure, we are going for more!”.

It only shows the nervousness in the PO’s HQ.

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