Poland’s Game-changing Elections, Their Winners and Losers

Time of speculations and exit polls is over – we have official election results with solid data on seats and their distribution in the Sejm. There are still a lot of questions and unclarities in the air about the future coalition, but one thing is certain: Law and Justice (PiS) era is over, and the self-proclaimed democratic opposition finally got its victory. But even in the opposition bloc, there are winners – and there are losers, too.

The seat divide in lower chamber of the parliament, Sejm: Law and Justice – 194 mandates; Civic Coalition/Platform – 157 mandates; Third Way – 65 mandates, nearly equally shared mandates among the Poland 2050/Szymon Hołownia party and the Polish People’s Party; The New Left – 26 mandates, including 7 going to the Left Together; Confederation – 18 mandates. 

Vote result: Law and Justice – 35.38 percent, Civic Coalition – 30.70 percent, Third Road – 14.40 percent, New Left – 8.61 percent, Confederation – 7.16 percent

Game-changing turnout

First and essential factor in these elections was a great mobilization of the Tusk’s electorate. It was possible because of this huge support of liberal media. We see it in the referendum results (the referendum is finally invalid, as the opposition voters refused to participate), it is also more obvious when it concerns voter turnout. All the media close to the opposition were working for this. All the journalistic investigations, scandals and the strongest cards from the opposition deck were used until the last day of the campaign.

On Friday before the elections, Poland could see the movie about the Sekielski brothers who showed how the services operated during the rule of Law and Justice in the context of one of the banking scandals. Moreover, in the last days before the elections, a scandal broke out in the Polish army, when two commanders-in-chief resigned from the above-mentioned functions. Of course, there were more such cases, but the liberal opposition clearly won the scandal game, which was not so obvious four years ago, during the last election. 

Second, it was impossible to participate in public life on social media without continuous campaigns by NGOs. Everywhere, there were advertisements and films encouraging people to participate in the elections, but on the other hand there were just as many campaigns not to participate in the referendum. All of this worked to the advantage of Tusk and the neoliberal opposition. 

From the exit poll for ipsos from 9:00 p.m. shows that the highest turnout was in the Masovian Voivodeship (78.3%), followed by the Pomeranian Voivodeship (77.6%), and the Greater Poland Voivodeship (75%). It was the lowest in the Opole Voivodeship (66.1%), Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship (67.3%) and West Pomeranian Voivodeship (68.3%). Although those numbers might be slightly different after counting of all the votes, we can see from this data that the highest turnout was in the regions who vote in the lion’s part on the liberal opposition, thus Civic Platform, thus Donald Tusk.

Kaczyński’s worst campaign

It was the worst PiS campaign in history. At a time when the opposition has no actual program – perhaps apart from the left, which may soon be marginalized due to the limited number of seats in the Sejm and blackmail from the liberal media, and there is no left-wing media in Poland, as we will see later – the PiS could really win this election. However, constant personal attacks on Tusk, lack of a serious program and presenting himself as technocrats did not help them. PiS voters have not chosen their party due to their technocratic values, and the party itself can barely see as technocratic.

There were a lot of things that could work in advantage of the ruling party: growth of the Polish GDP, lack of unemployment, a very huge uplifting of Polish diplomacy in the world… PiS barely mentioned any of these. Instead, they offered a series of personal attacks against Tusk.

What’s more, they failed due to demographics. In other words, to put it brutally, some of their voters from 2019 are no longer there. In addition, PiS made almost all possible mistakes that made it impossible to counteract this phenomenon. The case of abortion, which antagonized the youth. They closed off all possible channels to reach younger people and focused only on seniors and working on their standards of living, with no regard or narration toward the youngest voters. 

Despite the debates on lifting the abortion ban among PiS politicians, which I witnessed in the corridors of the Sejm, this was not done. The abortion ban was clearly the nail in PiS’s coffin. Since then, PiS has not risen above 40%. Now we will see, as I believe, a huge struggle on the side of the opposition when it comes to this topic, the New Left with only 26 mandates, and some truly liberal MPs of the Civic Coalition, are going to fight with much more conservative frenemies inside their wanna-be coalition. This might be a center point of Polish politics once again. 

Who is the winner? 

Although it would seem that determining the biggest winner should be difficult, especially with such complicated results, it is clear in this election. It is the Third Way, a conglomerate of conservatives and hardcore neoliberals. The first part is the so-called Polish People’s Party, which does not have its own program, at most the program of its coalition partner, apart from a strong conservative anchor in ideological matters. 

The second part of the Third Way, i.e. the neoliberals, is a team of elites extremely close to Donald Tusk, who did not manage to come to power in the last round during Tusk’s rule, led by Szymon Hołownia, a former presenter of the American television in Poland, TVN.

After the exit poll results were announced, Szymon Hołownia shouted that this was the end of hand-out politics in Poland, i.e. of governments focused on social transfers (often politically motivated, but still). 

The leader of PSL, i.e. the Polish People’s Party, said that ideological issues cannot be included in the coalition agreement. So what about the fight for women’s rights, which could have previously been made difficult by the president or the Constitutional Tribunal, i.e. bodies in the hands of PiS? 

The losers… 

Even though only one political leader admitted that it was his failure, and what’s more, possibly the biggest failure of his life, there are more losers. Of course, we are talking about the Confederation and Sławomir Mentzen. His formation, with nearly 15% a few months ago, was now fighting for the electoral threshold, which was broadcast live along with the vote counting. 

On the far right, reckonings and quarrels have already begun that we have not seen for a long time. It is very possible that all this, I assume, will benefit national circles, i.e. half of the current formation, which is far from the libertarian crazy about pedophilia or dog eating that brought this party to the threshold. A “responsible nationalistic party” a la PiS but on steroids has a chance in Poland. 

However, the biggest loser of this election may be the Left. Why? Well, it turns out that de facto Third Way neoliberals and Donald Tusk’s salon may not need their votes.

In fact, they only need a few votes from PiS and a few splitters from the left or Confederation to create a coalition. And the weather for liberal dissenters on the left is extremely good. Who expected such a low result of Social-Democrats? Literally no one. Moreover, the only party on the left that is gaining – in terms of seats – is Lewica Razem, the one I wrote about recently. It may turn out that neither liberals nor conservatives may want them, and what’s more, their own coalition partners may disown them. 

Once again winners

However, despite all this, this is a huge success for the ruling party. No party in history has enjoyed such great support, especially considering the crises of war, Covid, etc., it is still a success. In the end, the opponents did not win with their own strength, but thanks to the mistakes of Jarosław Kaczyński and Mateusz Morawiecki, who also mobilized the people to vote. 

This is a historical proof that in Poland it is possible to build large mass parties with gigantic support, something that the left is still unable to do. 

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