Poland: Elections with a Double Outcome

Politics - October 17, 2023

PiS (ECR) first party, but the opposition can form the government

Parliamentary elections were held on 15 October in Poland, a country where the center-right has historically achieved very positive results, having governed uninterruptedly since 2005. However, the two radically different right-wing parties are competing for the government.

On the one hand, there is PiS (ECR), the party of Kaczynski and Morawiecki with a conservative, anti-communist, and nationalist ideological base, which governed from 2005 to 2011 and from 2015 to today; on the other, there is PO (PPE), Donald Tusk’s liberal, pro-European and Christian Democrat party. Two opposite visions, despite belonging to the same political area.

The elections saw a fragmented result but one that must make us understand how the dynamic, already seen in Spain, of a rediscovered substantial bipolarity on the European political scene is increasingly widespread. Going to the numerical results, the ballot situation to be completed is the following: PiS and its coalition still came in first place with just over 35% of the votes; followed by PO and his allies, stuck at 30%; third place for an alternative bloc, “Terza Via”, made up of environmentalist and agrarian movements which collected 14% of the votes; The centre-left bloc Nowa Levica (8.48%) and the group even further to the right of PiS, namely Konfederacja (7.17%), also exceeded a significant number of votes.

It is easy to say that the Government bloc (or at least ideologically closest) garners just over 40% of the votes (43.15%) while the joint oppositions largely exceed 50% (53.09%). The counting is not so simple: PiS still holds the largest number of votes and therefore seats. Furthermore, it will not be easy to find a stable government agreement for Tusk having to find an agreement between his people, the left and the greens with a program that is not solely aimed at ousting PiS from the country’s government.

The analysis of the vote then underlines some fundamental aspects: in Lesser Poland, Podlachia, Santacroce, and Lublin the PiS exceeded 40%, while in Subcarpathia it even had an absolute majority with 52.83% while it did not reach 30% in Western Pomerania, Lubusz, and Pomerania (where it achieved the worst result with 27.39%). What do these regions have in common?

Subcarpathia and Lublin border Ukraine, Podlachia borders Belarus and Lithuania, Lesser Poland borders Slovakia and Santacroce is close to these border areas; Western Pomerania, Lubusz, and Pomerania are the areas bordering Germany and overlooking the Baltic. The vote for PiS was therefore widespread in the villages, especially in the Southern and Eastern areas of the country, which were also more involved in the war between Russia and Ukraine, while it was weaker in the cities of the North-West. A vote exactly antithetical to that for PO, which instead exceeded 35% in the cities reaching just 20% in the villages, with an exploit from abroad which however involved around 140,000 votes, not significant for the final results of the elections.

The interpretation that would like PiS to be penalized for its faithful support for Ukraine’s cause must therefore be immediately refuted since the areas most involved have indeed largely rewarded the Government party. If anything, simply the strong increase in voter participation (73% turnout compared to 62% in 2019) saw PiS reduce its consensus while PO regained the votes of even those who had abstained last time.

Now the next moves will certainly be hectic: it is not in question that the opposition coalition will go to Government; however, the programmatic and value basis on which the agreement will be based remains to be seen. It will certainly have also an impact on the European elections: a weak, possibly divided government and an opposition party with a strong electoral primacy could soon bring PiS back to a predominant position, both in the country and in the European Union.