Sunday

19th Sep 2021

Poland's right-wing ruler wins four more years

  • The 70-year old Jaroslaw Kaczynski's conservative vision of Poland proved popular with voters (Photo: pis.org.pl)

Poland's conservative ruling party has won four more years in office, beating a pro-European coalition into second place.

"We have victory. Despite a powerful [opposition] front, we managed to win", the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's chief, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is widely seen as the country's de facto leader, announced on Sunday (13 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We are finishing a certain stage: we are starting a new one. It is not easier, maybe more difficult. But I hope that it will be finished with even greater success," he added.

The PiS party "had a real plan ... for courts to stop being the ball and chain of the Polish economy," Zbigniew Ziobro, the PiS justice minister, said.

PiS won the elections to the lower house with 43.6 percent of votes, giving it an outright majority of 239 seats out of 260 under Poland's electoral rules.

It also won 46.2 percent of votes in the upper house, amid a high turnout of more than 60 percent.

Kaczynski's mention of a "certain stage" of reform alluded to PiS' overhaul of the Polish judicial system.

The comments by Ziobro, the main enforcer of those reforms, were more explicit in saying they would continue.

That augured badly for EU relations after the European Commission launched a sanctions procedure against Poland some two years ago, saying the changes were designed to make judges into PiS' political servants, undermining the independence of the courts.

PiS also attacked "liberal elites" in its campaign and promised to spend more on welfare.

And it hammered Poland's pro-LGBTI movement as a form of nefarious foreign influence in another assault on mainstream EU values.

The Civic Coalition (KO), a bloc of three centre-right and pro-EU parties, came second with 27.4 percent in the lower house and 33.2 percent in the senate.

"It's important that the winner [PiS] does not try to destroy its opponents, but understood that, after a win, all political forces need to live side by side," Donald Tusk, the outgoing president of the EU Council in Brussels and a former Polish prime minister, who campaigned on behalf of KO, said.

Polish democracy was "very strong and stable", Tusk added, even though PiS has also curtailed media freedoms and civil society in its past four years in power.

"We did not have the feeling that we competed in a fair fight, that our opponent used fair methods," Grzegorz Schetyna, the head of the Civic Platform, the KO's main party, said.

Meanwhile, a left-wing coalition called Lewica came third with 11.9 percent in the lower house.

Lewica included Spring, a new party led by Poland's first-ever openly gay politician, Robert Biedron, who is also an MEP.

"We are returning to parliament. We are going back to where the Polish left has always belonged," Biedron said as the results came out, showing a different side of Polish society.

A conservative agrarian party, the Polish People's Party, will also enter parliament with 9.6 percent.

A far-right party called Confederation will join them after winning 6.4 percent of the vote.

For his part, Piotr Buras, who works in Warsaw for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a London-based think tank, said the election showed: "Europe cannot prevent Poland's or any other country's backsliding towards semi-authoritarianism".

But it could not ignore "the disastrous implications of such a scenario" and it ought to press ahead with punitive measures, he said.

The ECFR's Pawel Zerka said: "High levels of support for PiS should not be interpreted as a sign that Poles have become nationalist or xenophobic. Rather, it reveals an effective party machine".

"The opposition sought to frame this election around democracy, the rule of law and values of openness and tolerance. However, the cut through seems to have been on national economic growth," Zerka said.

Commission takes Poland to court on eve of election

As Poland's combative Law and Justice party faces elections this Sunday, the commission once again sends a case on its domestic judiciary reforms to the European Court of Justice for breaking EU rules.

Poland's 'vague' nominee flops in EU hearing

Poland's nominee for agriculture commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, is likely to face a second hearing after MEPs from top political groups lambasted his "vague" performance on Tuesday.

Podcast

Cultural Battlefield

Marta Keil knows firsthand the pressure on culture from Poland's ruling Law and Justice party. Her overview begins at the Polski theatre in the city of Wrocław, and describes an epic clash as the Polish museum sector is steadily hollowed-out.

Opinion

Polish election: analysing why PiS won

Support for democracy was particularly low in Poland with only 19 percent consistently supporting democracy - only Hungary and Bulgaria scored lower.

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. MEPs suspect Gazprom manipulating gas price
  2. Fast fashion vs. climate - how 'repair & resell' is the new model
  3. Right of reply: Erik Bergkvist, S&D MEP and shadow rapporteur
  4. EU Commission blocks anti-fraud funds without explanation
  5. Centre-right MEPs abstain on gender-violence vote
  6. World off track to meet climate targets, despite Covid-19
  7. EU to call out Russian aggression at Kyiv summit
  8. EU urges member states to better protect journalists

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us