Results of the 2023 elections in Poland in favor of Donald Tusk and the opposition

Europe stood on the brink of a political earthquake on Monday as election results in Poland signaled the end of a far-right government that has weakened liberal democracy, encouraged a free press and exercised control over the courts while undermining the interests of LBGTQ+ people and women. rights.

Now one of the strongest pillars of conservative illiberalism in the world, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, faces the same stark choice that faced Donald Trump in the US and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil: how to cope with defeat in that same democracy which she sought to undermine.

Observers see little chance of the uprisings that have rocked Washington and Brasilia. But Law and Justice, as many say, including some members of the party itself, may not be so soft. Under Poland’s parliamentary system, the transition of power could drag on for two to three months, during which Law and Justice, known by its acronym PiS, is likely to look for potential defectors in the opposition ranks.

“I am optimistic that we will not face any attempts to question the election results in such a serious way as happened in the United States or Brazil,” said Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Foreign Affairs Council. Connections “But I have no illusions that PiS will try different ways to stay in power or at least make it difficult to form a new government.”

More than 99.48 percent of ballots have been counted. The Law and Justice party remained the leader in terms of the number of votes – 35.6 percent. But he appears to have fallen short of a ruling majority and a path to a ruling coalition. The opposition Civic Platform, although it took second place with 30.5% of the vote, found itself in a much stronger position. She has two likely coalition partners – Third Way and the Left Party – who will help her achieve a comfortable majority.

Turnout was more than 74 percent, the highest in Poland since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What you need to know about the Polish elections – the most popular vote in Europe in 2023

Donald Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland and former president of the European Council, preemptively declared an opposition victory after the exit poll was released on Sunday: “Poland has won, democracy has won. We removed them from power!”

As official tallies emerged on Monday, Polish citizens, European leaders and analysts became increasingly confident that a sea change was underway.

“We still have to wait for the final results. But the advancement of the Polish opposition, which has been able to unite the centre-right, center and left against the conservative populism in power, is a huge sign of hope for Poland and its place in Europe,” said Nathalie Loiseau, French MEP. wrote onformerly known as Twitter.

“This represents a major shift for Europe,” said Rose Balfour, director of Carnegie Europe, a Brussels-based think tank. “If we get a government without law and justice, relations between Warsaw and Brussels, which are constantly deteriorating, will change.”

However, it remains unclear whether Tusk will receive approval to form a centrist, pro-European government. And even if he becomes prime minister again, some aspects of the far right’s eight-year rule may be difficult to reverse.

Some policy changes, such as easing penalties for abortion, could be introduced through ministerial decrees. But others will need the support of the courts, where the allies of Law and Justice remain firmly entrenched. Other changes will require cooperation from Polish President Andrzej Duda, who is firmly on the far right and retains veto power until the end of his term in May 2025.

Opposition claims victory in Polish elections as vote counting continues

Under Poland’s parliamentary system, Duda must choose a prime minister who will try to form a government. In public comments on Monday, he gave no indication of how he would proceed, although he has previously said he would choose someone from the winning party.

Joachim Brudzinski, the head of the Law and Justice party’s election campaign, told Polish media that he expected incumbent Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to be called again.

“No matter how you look at it, we won,” Brudzinski told Polish Radio. “It seems clear to me that President Andrzej Duda will entrust this mission to Law and Justice.”

Law and Justice MP Radoslaw Vogel told Polish radio Zet that his party will seek the favor of every member of parliament who is “pro-government” and does not want to “submit to the dictates of Tusk.” Asked whether PiS was willing to trade the prime ministership for the center-right Third Way alliance to stay in power, Vogel replied: “Today is too early to speculate, but we are open to a wide range of negotiations.”

Analysts say the unraveling of the results could take until Christmas. Ultimately, however, they predict that Law and Justice will have to take a place in the opposition.

Poland is facing decisive elections. Observers say the vote is unfair.

The far right has made significant gains in Europe, especially since the pandemic. But losing power in Poland, one of its main strongholds, would be a huge blow. This suggests that the far right is subject to the same economic pressures that have pushed incumbents out of traditional political parties.

It would also highlight the ability of moderates to rally together at crucial moments. The opposition presented the elections as the last and best chance to prevent Poland from sliding into autocracy. Exit polls showed that opposition support relied heavily on younger voters, highly educated urbanites and Poles living in the industrialized western half of the country, which has deeper historical ties to the rest of Europe.

If Tusk is eventually given the chance to lead the government, there will be high hopes that he will repair relations with the European Union and further increase Poland’s influence in Europe while reviving democracy within his country.

As a renowned champion of European unity, he will be welcomed in Brussels and is likely to secure the release of funding that the EU denied Poland during clashes over the rule of law. Tusk would reliably side with other moderate EU politicians, leaving the bloc’s far-right icon, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, more isolated.

Poland’s influence in Europe and NATO has already grown due to its proximity to the war in Ukraine and strong support for Kyiv. Tusk could elevate Warsaw even further, bringing it closer to parity with Paris, Berlin and Rome and shifting Europe’s center of gravity further east.

But his biggest hopes will be what he can achieve in Poland.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice party and deputy prime minister of Poland, called LGBTQ+ rights a “threat” to Catholic Poland. Cities influenced by the far right have declared themselves “LGBTQ+-free zones.” Meanwhile, Tusk has vowed to push for civil unions for same-sex couples and a transgender law that would make it easier for Poles to legally declare themselves as members of the other gender. He also promised to ease Poland’s near-total ban on abortion.

Women’s rights and LGBTQ+ advocates celebrated late Sunday night and into Monday.

“The nightmare ends,” Polish gay activist Bart Staszewski stated this.. “I’m gay, I’m Polish, and I’m proud of it today. After eight years of hating people like me… Poland has returned to the path of democracy and the rule of law.”

But Tusk, who took a stridently anti-immigrant stance during the election campaign, will also have to manage a host of socially conservative politicians within his main alliance. It remains unclear what changes it will be able to bring to Poland and how quickly.

The outcome is being especially watched in Washington, Brussels, Kyiv and Moscow, where Poland is seen as a central figure in the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Poland has led European support for Kyiv, criticizing attempts at dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the equipping of Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks and Polish MiG-29 fighter jets.

But domestic politics have clouded that support. Last month, a dispute over the impact of Ukrainian grain exports on Polish farmers escalated to such an extent that Prime Minister Morawiecki threatened to cut off Polish arms supplies. Meanwhile, Tusk promised continued support for Ukraine.

PiS is trying to portray Tusk as pro-Russian, a description that some analysts say is false. However, he is less likely to engage in the kind of political theater that saw Morawiecki clash with French President Emmanuel Macron last year over attempts at dialogue with Putin.

“It is nonsense that PiS is more anti-Russian than Tusk,” Buras said. “The truth is that Tusk has in the past and is likely to be more cautious in his dealings with EU partners.”

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