Unspectacular victory secures Law and Justice’s second term in office
Maciej Gorazdowski, University of Warsaw
After a mediocrely captivating electoral campaign, Poland went to the polls on October 13th to elect the Sejm and Senat representatives. This time it was rather the scores and not the order of the competitors that was surprising. Ruling party’s (PiS) seat count stabilised with a majority surplus of five, while two smallest competitors avoided a sweep-out. The turnout almost reached its 30-year peak hitting over 61%.
PiS leader, Kaczynski, admired the victory as the exit poll results attributing 43,7% of votes to his party came, although he spoke with regret saying that for introducing a significant change in the social benefits system and ensuring an increase in tax collection, the party “deserves more”. Such a score of his conservative alliance ranks rather on the mid-low level of the aggregated survey scale of the past few months, as some measured their popularity to be as high as 48%. “Half of the votes was an ultimate goal”, Sasin, a high-rank party member, discloses. However, the effective result in a number of Sejm seats is a loss. While reaching 235 MPs just now, the count by the end of the last term was 240. The boost resulting from a rising turnout did not hit the expected level as the newly attracted constituents were not only the residents of the countryside, among which PiS is an ultimate winner, as that was the case in local elections of 2018.
No remarkable success was noted for the Civic Platform, main party of the opposition, which struggled to gather 27,4% of the votes. The dullness and low charisma of its leader, Schetyna, instigates calls for him to step down as soon as possible in order not to obstruct the 2020 presidential campaign. Schetyna’s unpopularity and negative image as well as, late decision on finding his substitute to run for prime minister, are seen as the main causes for inability of CP to confront the current government. The pool of voters capable of being convinced only by a negatory programme of putting PiS off from power is said to have already dried out.
Four long years of absence in Sejm, mark a turning point for the newly created movement of the left, as it finishes with 12,5% of the votes. Wrong calculations made the Democratic Left Alliance party drop from the parliament in 2015 missing the coalition threshold only by half a percent. Now its cooperation with Wiosna and Razem made a return feasible. The result came in lower than expected, yet everyone was in fact buckled up doubly for worse. The platform launched its lists with representatives of all three groups under DLA instead of forming a formal coalition to avoid a higher threshold and therefore, the 2015 scenario. The score was greeted enthusiastically although not a single leader was to predict if the left would form a single caucus or more. All three admit however, that non-cooperative model is a no-go if any left party is to stay in Sejm.
Unexpectedly, the less popular movements, balancing on the anti-establishment forces of the Kukiz movement, the Polish Peasant Party secured 8,5% of the votes. Although this came at a cost, as the majority of PPP’s voters shifted towards Law and Justice. Reports show that almost three in four votes of those living in the countryside and working in the agricultural sector, which is the main electorate for this centrist-agrarian party, have been lost since 2015. PPP is now soon to face a major step of evolution as it becomes a European-type modern Christian-democratic party willing to attract not only farmers and landowners, but also centrist entrepreneurs.
Ranking fifth in the elections after achieving 6,8% of the votes, the Confederacy makes its first appearance in Sejm. Its unprecedented pro-Russian approach to international policy but also, a campaign of a social exclusion of LGBT members and an interest in further restricting the abortion laws are said to create a hassle for the ruling party, which is consequently expected to move to a more moderate approach in terms of family planning and social topics.
Small but remarkable change affected the Senate, where the majority of PiS shrank to 48 seats. In such an arrangement the Senate run by the opposition is likely to prolong the legislative process, putting a stop to a one-day bill passing and night time committee sessions, which became a symbol of the previous term.
The results leave the winner in doubt. Having delivered extended child benefits, thirteenth extra pension for the elderly and a tax exemption for the young there is not much more to give away to make the polls rise. And more expenses such as rising costs of electricity, legislatively covered in 2019, may disrupt the continuity of the Polish-made welfare state and ultimately undermine the creation of the new economic elites, recently announced by Kaczynski. Majority of voters refused to follow the path created for the new middle class whose loyalty and obedience would be a return gift for the permission to climb the economic ladder and gain an easy access to public service. Kaczynski’s first words after the fall of the electoral silence expressed his disappointment of not convincing the unconvinced distinctively more than his gratitude for receiving a fair proof of legitimisation for the next few years. His political appetite thus remains unsatisfied.