Poland voted: the morning after

So yesterday Poles went to the polls. And yes they did. Big numbers, some 61% (estimated) of the electorate showed up. The celebration of democracy continues.

As the results come in and they are distorted after 25% and 42% of the vote, I prefer to present the “late poll” result, which is almost identical with the exit poll from last night.

Law and Justice (PiS) wins with 43.6% of the vote. It shall translate itself into 239 seats according to the polling institution. 239 is a majority of seats in the Sejm composed of 460 MPs. As those are still estimates some scientists pulled different figures out of this poll suggesting PiS dominance to be slightly reduced, ranging from 227 to 231.

Law and Justice will continue to rule alone. Mateusz Morawiecki will continue to be PM. PiS had a number of controversial policy programme items including the judiciary reform, the media law and the cooperation with the local authorities. Yet the most important of the campaign promises were on the social policy: the minimal wage at a Western European standard by 2023.

The opposition lost and is weakened. It was virtually a concerto to listen to all the commentators singing the same tune last night, and it may continue well into the weeks ahead, that Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the Civic Platform (PO) and main architect of the Civic Coalition, should be the person to hold accountable for the performance. It does not help the PO that majority of their voters vote them out of opposition to the ruling party. The positive offer was lacking in the campaign. The narrative remains reactive to the PiS narrative. The voters prefer the original and the new. Marketing 101.

The Left is back. A coalition of three partners who present themselves as three musketeers. They promise a lot, actually underperformed against the opinion polls, and risk divisions. The three leaders say they shall remain united.

PSL, the farmers party and their partners, is deeply relieved. PiS has targetted its audience in its campaign. Today, almost half of PiS voters are based in the rural areas of the country. Traditionally this is where PSL was strong. Eradication of PSL could serve the PiS increased popularity. This did not happen also thanks to the brilliant campaign rhetoric of the young PSL leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz. His star will continue to shine among the opposition politicians.

The alt-right is back. The Confederacy is a mosaic of far rights, nationalists, monarchists, libertarians and other movements. Will they stay united or disintegrate into individual atoms orbiting around Law and Justice? As long as Mr Janusz Korwin-Mikke is a vocal critic of the PiS rule in the Sejm it might actually be prevented from happening.

The Sejm’s new dynamics

The new Sejm will see a new balance to the public discourse in Poland. The dark ages of a debate between an EPP member PO and the ruling Law and Justice is largely behind us. Even with the PiS domination the renewed presence of the Left offers a fresh start. Among the key vocal debaters is Adrian Zandberg, one of the three co-leaders.

As the Left will check the redistribution policies of the government and will check the liberal values of the PO, the Confederacy will check the liberal economic offer of the PO and the conservative values of PiS. An interesting interplay, in which PSL does present itself as the “middle ground”.

If this was a game of thrones and the winter is coming, there are the Greens who arrive on the Polish political scene. Elected with the Civic Coalition the Green MPs will have, for the first time in history of the Sejm, a real chance of advocating the climate crisis, which may be global, but is also a local affair in Poland.

The Morning Questions

There are many questions, but let me ponder two. First, the future of the Senate is important. First indicators show that the upper chamber will be divided between PiS and the opposition. As the results are coming in and many races are tight, it is impossible to give the answer which way the Senate will go. The Senate elections is not proportionate, there are 100 seats and 100 electoral districts and the winner takes all.

Second, Donald Tusk’s future. The star of Mr Schetyna may be in decline, but is it also the case of Mr Tusk, whose term ends in December? Clearly the opposition will seek a unifier candidate for the next battle: for the country presidency, scheduled for late spring next year.

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