Poland Re-Elects Patriotic Conservatives
By Robert Strybel
WARSAW–Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) party won the October 13th general election by capturing 43.6 percent of the vote. That outcome gave it a 235-seat majority in the 460-member Sejm, parliament’s main law-making chamber. PiS will again be able to govern independently without seeking a coalition partner. That was the highest support won by any political party since the collapse of communist rule in 1989 as well as the highest voter turnout – 61.1 percent.
The Civic Coalition, the main opposition bloc led by the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party and including the ultra-liberal Modern party and Greens, won 27.4 percent of the vote which translates into 134 seats. After a four-year absence, the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) teamed up with the pro-LGBT Spring party ran as the Left (Lewica) and attracted 12.6 percent of the vote giving it 49 seats in the Sejm.
The rural-based Polish People’s Party (formerly known in English as the Polish Peasant Party) or PSL ran with the anti-establishment Kukiz’15 movement to garner 8.’6 percent of the ballots, winning 30 parliamentary seats. The controversial Confederation led by eccentric libertarian Janusz Korwin-Mikke and including ultra-right nationalist won the support of 6.8 percent of voters and a 11-member parliamentary team.
But the triumphant mood in the PiS camp was dampened when the results of the Senate vote were announced. The ruling party captured only 48 of the body’s 100 seats with other candidates winning the remaining 52. Opposition parties had concluded a deal not to run against each other but instead to throw their support behind a single anti-PiS candidate in each of the 100 voting districts, and the ploy succeeded.
The Polish Senate reviews, amends and can reject legislation passed by the Sejm. However that does not mean that the opposition can overturn every new law, because PiS-rooted President Andrzej Duda has the right to override a Senate amendment or rejection. Moreover, the PSL is every bit as tradition-minded as PiS and can be counted on to side with the government in such crucial areas such as abortion on demand, LGBT and gender ideology as well as renouncing Poland’s Concordat with the Vatican – issues promoted in some liberal and leftist quarters.
PiS’s Sejm victory will enable the conservative administration to continue its generous program of welfare benefits to children, the elderly and young businessmen just getting started. Whereas PO catered mainly to big-city elites, PiS has focused on Poland’s have-nots, those who lost out on the country’s transformation following the collapse of communist rule.
Sensitive to popular demand, over the past four years the ruling conservatives have restored the traditional retirement age of 65 for men and 60 for women as well as re-opening provincial police stations, schools and post offices and inter-town buslines shut down by as cost-cutting measures by the previous liberal government.
Both the ruling Law and Justice camp and the opposition are now gearing up for May’s presidential election in which incumbent Duda is expected to stand for re-election. At this stage many different scenarios are possible, but some observers feel PiS will try to avoid open clashes and work to achieve a more tranquil atmosphere for the presidential contest. But if the opposition continues its hitherto policy of mercilessly attacking, boycotting and provoking the government in a manner reminiscent of America’s Trump-bashers, that may be easier said than done.