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May 20, 2024

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Poland To Elect New Parliament
On October 25th

A coalition led by liberal PO may end up governing

WARSAW–Poland goes to the polls on October 25th to elect a new national assembly, the main lawmaking 460-member Sejm (lower house) and the 100-seat Senate which reviews and modifies the Sejm’s legislation. For months now, the conservative opposition party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość = PiS) has led in opinion polls ahead of the more liberal ruling Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska = PO). Although PiS looks set to win, a PO-led coalition may end up ruling Poland for the next four years.

A recent opinion survey showed 38% support for PiS and only 23% for PO. If only those two parties clear the required 5% threshold, then PiS would be entitled to create the the next cabinet. But if several small also-ran parties made it through and totaled 18% of the popular vote, that would give a prospective PO-led coalition 41% and the right to form a government. Unless, that is, the small grouping of rock musician Paweł Kukiz made it and added its 5% to PiS’ result thereby winning 43% of the vote.

The popularity of PO, which has ruled for two consecutive four-year terms since 2007, has faded because many voters are tired of seeing the same tired faces on the TV news. Secretly recorded chats of top government officials making obscene remarks about their colleagues and the USA over gourmet food and drink in top-end Warsaw restaurants has also tarnished the ruling party’s image. And PO-rooted former President Bronisław Komorowski wasted $35 million of taxpayers’ money on a referendum that attracted less than 8% of all eligible voters.

PO is trying to lure voters with a pledge to limit temporary job contrasts which are beneficial to employers but not workers, since they provide no old-age pensions or health benefits. The ruling party also wants to lower the tax bracket for the lowest wage-earners to 10% from the current 18%. PiS says it will restore the former retirement age of 60 years for women and 65 for men, after the PO raised it to 67. The party of Jarosław Kaczyński also promises higher benefits to urge people to have more children, since Poland is now threatened with serious depopulation.

Both parties hope to introduce a minimum hourly wage of around 12 złotys (about $3.24) an hour. Poland’s economy grew by over 25% over the past seven years, more than any other European country, but the average Pole still makes less than 30% percent of what Germans earn.

There are no exact equivalents in America of Poland’s two main parties, the Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS). Like American Republicans the PO is more pro-business but it differs from the GOP by being socially liberal – it favors more separation of church as well as gay rights. Like America’s Democratic Party, PiS supports welfare benefits for less well-to-do citizens, but being socially conservative it is also openly patriotic and pro-Catholic and favors the traditional family.

However, the votes goes on Sunday, October 25th (Polish elections are always held on Sunday), one thing seems certain. The members of American Polonia eligible to vote in Polish elections will more likely than not overwhelmingly cast their ballots for PiS. In the past Law and Justice has garnered from 60% to 70% of Polonia’s votes – twice that of what it can count on in Poland.

By Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent