The only party to enjoy back to back election victories since the first free modern era elections in Poland has been defeated and current PM Ewa Kopacz officially conceded after exit poll data was released. Civic Platform (PO) a centrist party lost parliamentary elections on Sunday to the right wing conservative opposition Law and Justice
party (PiS). The victory was large enough to allow them to govern without having to form a coalition. In addition, for the first time in Poland's post-communist history, no left-wing party candidates have won enough votes to enter into parliament.
Amid a decisive shift to the right, Poles elected a new parliament Sunday that will not include the Democratic Left Alliance, the heir to the former communists, or any other parties on the left.
The win was foreshadowed by the successful election of PiS presidential candidate Andy Duda earlier this year. If the data is accurate PiS will have 242 seats in the Polish parliament, out of a
total of 460.
The exit poll showed PiS, run by Jarosław Kaczynski,
the twin brother of Poland’s late president Lech, winning with 39.1% of the vote, while the Civic Platform totaled 23.4%.
PiS is a party characterized by Euroscepticism, anti-immigration and champion of Poles not fully benefiting from decades of enormous economic growth. While much of the western provinces and Warsaw have seen solid improvement in jobs, incomes and living standards, much of the east and southern areas of the country have not accelerated at the same pace.
Poland's economy, the largest in
ex-communist central Europe, expand by nearly 50 % in the last
decade and was the only EU country not to have a down year during the recent economic meltdown in 2008 . But there was enough widespread anger that the fruits of
growth have not been evenly shared among the country’s 38 million
people to facilitate a change in government.
PiS is leery regarding many EU policies including the Euro currency as well as general monetary policies in dealing with a sluggish EU economy and the debt troubles facing many of the countries in southern Europe. Poland has wisely deferred on adopting the Euro and PiS is firmly opposed to abandoning the Złoty.
While the party advocates stronger military preparations and spending in
dealing with Moscow, they have made promises of more welfare spending on the poor and want the retirement age rolled back to previous requirements.
Beata Szydlo, the party’s candidate for prime
minister, is poised to change the $600 billion economy with pledges to
raise taxes on banks and supermarkets owned by foreign companies which dominate across Poland. To solve a decreasing birthrate there is talk about increased spending on child
support which will benefit families with more than two children.
PiS has also opposed
relocating migrants from the Middle East to Poland, arguing they could
threaten Poland’s Catholic way of life and subject the country to greater welfare expenditures.
Michal Zurawski, in his mid-30s, who voted for PiS in
the morning in central Warsaw, said he backed the party’s promises to
tackle corruption as well as its economic program. “Their offer is
targeted at those who are less affluent and that suits me. Taking care
of this group and creating better social and labor conditions for them
is good – it will benefit Poland’s economy and the country as a whole,”
On the campaign trail PiS sought to tap into anger that economic success is not more
evenly shared and into nationalist sentiment fanned by immigration
fears, particularly among young voters.
Across Europe there is growing resurgence for a return to
national, religious, community values. PiS has been successful using clear and strong language in this
respect. The election in Poland portends shifts coming in other EU member countries in the near future.