Official Results of Poland’s General Election And Referendum
Compiled by Robert Strybel
On 17 October 2023, the Polish State Electoral Commission announced the official results of Poland’s 15 October general election and referendum. The winner was the incumbent Law and Justice party which garnered 35.4% of the vote, giving it 196 seats in the 460-member Sejm, lower house of parliament. The largest opposition party, Civic Coalition, was supported by 30.7% of Poland’s voters which translates into 158 parliamentary seats.
The Third Road, a coalition of the centrist Poland 2050 and rural-based Polish People’s Party, won 14.4% of the vote which gave it 61 parliamentary seats. The least support was won by the Left — 8.6% of the vote and 30 parliamentary seats, followed in last place by the Confederation with 7.16% support and 15 seats.
A referendum that paralleled the election asked four questions pertaining to: acceptance of illegal migrants, dismantling the barrier on the Belarusian border, the sell-off of public assets and raising retirement age to 76. The government had urged voters to reply four times “no,” and they complied. Over 90% said “no” to all four questions, but only 40% took part, thereby invalidating the referendum which required a minimum backing of 51%.
Polish voters heeded the appeals of all political parties to get out and vote, producing an unprecedented turnout. A total of 74.4% of eligible voters cast their ballots, more than in any other election since the 1989 collapse of communist rule.
Sorting things out on Poland’s convoluted political stage
Law & Justice wins election but may not govern
By Robert Strybel
WARSAW—When exit-poll results were announced late on election day, at the headquarters of the ruling conservative Law & Justice party, its leader Jarosław Kaczyński triggered enthusiastic applause when he said: “Ours is the only party since 1989 (the collapse of communist rule) that has won a third consecutive parliamentary election.” Although according to the exit polls his party had lost the election to Law & Justice, the leader of the liberal-left Civic Coalition Donald Tusk jubilantly declared: “Poland has won, democracy has won, we have removed them from office!”
A total of 35.4% of Poland’s eligible voters cast their ballots for Jarosław Kaczyński’s ruling, right-leaning conservative Law & Justice party, whereas its chief opponent, Donald Tusk’s liberal, left-leaning Civic Coalition came second with 30.7% support. President Andrzej Duda is obliged to appoint a prime minister, usually someone from the winning party, but with only 196 seats in the 460-member Sejm it is short of the 231 seats needed to have a parliamentary majority.
With only 158 parliamentary seats, the Civic Coalition would have been in even worse shape to govern independently but Tusk providentially anticipated that situation and mounted a broad coalition comprising the centrist Third Road and the Left. Law & Justice has no-one to form a coalition government with. Some felt that the far-right Confederation could become a possible kingmaker, but its poor showing dashed such hopes. With only 15 seats in the Sejm it would give Law & Justice a mere 211, still far short of the 231 minimum.
The only alternative for Law & Justice is to lure some of Tusk’s political partners away to form its own coalition. A logical choice might appear to be the conservative Third Road. Like Kaczyński, its leader, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, is an adamant foe of abortion on demand and has said he would never sign a coalition agreement forcing his MPs to vote for it. Adding that group’s 61 seats to Kaczyński’s’ 196 would create a healthy majority of 257. But the Third Road leader has also ruled out a coalition with Law & Justice which he accuses of attacking and slandering his party.
As the politicians try to thrash out some modus vivendi, many ordinary Poles wonder how a Tusk-led government would impact their lives. Will he again raise across-the-board mandatory retirement age to 67 from the current 60 for women and 65 for men? Will he keep the generous child-benefit program in place? On a national scale, will such projects as the Central Transport Hub and the Container Port on the Baltic be continued?
The main priority of Law & Justice has been to turn Poland into a strong, secure and sovereign regional power with Europe’s biggest land army. It has also declared the ambition to match Germany’s level of economic development over the next two decades. Up till now Tusk and his cronies tried not to rock the boat and run afoul of Berlin and Brussels but to take their cues from those two quarters.