May 29, 2024

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Polish polls give former Prime Minister Donald Tusk a possible path back to power

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Donald Tusk has secured a likely path to power in Poland, according to two exit polls, giving the former European Council president the upper hand over his right-wing rivals, the ruling Law and Justice party.

The Law and Justice Party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, appears set to lose office despite winning the most votes in Sunday’s election, because according to opinion polls, it will lack a majority even with a far-right party as its coalition. a partner.

If confirmed in the vote count, it would represent a stunning victory for Tusk in Poland’s most important election in a generation. The former prime minister declared the opposition victory, saying he had “never been happier” to come in second place. It is estimated that PiS won 36.6% of the vote, compared to 31% for Tusk’s Civic Party.

The Polish currency and stock market rose strongly on Monday in reaction to Tusk’s potential return. The Warsaw WIG index was up 3.5 percent by late morning, while the zloty jumped 1.9 percent against the euro before settling to trade 1 percent higher on the day at 4.49 zloty to the euro.

Tusk pledged during the election campaign to put Warsaw back on a firm pro-European path, restore the independence of judges, and release billions of euros in EU funding that the European Commission had withheld in a row with the PiS government over judicial reforms.

The election is seen as the most important EU election this year, potentially redefining the relationship between Brussels and the largest member state in Central and Eastern Europe after years of disagreement.

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“This is the end of bad times. This is the end of PiS rule,” Tusk said on Sunday evening to cheering supporters. “We really did it. Poland won, democracy won.”

Civic Platform, along with two other parties, is on track to gain 248 of the 460 seats in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament, according to the latest Ipsos voter poll released on Monday morning, which confirmed the same Tusk’s party share of seats. The party as a preliminary exit poll on Sunday evening.

At PiS headquarters, Kaczynski told supporters that there was still a way for his party to return to power. “We have days of fighting and various tensions ahead of us,” the hardline conservative leader said. He added: “We must have hope and know that regardless of whether we are in power or in the opposition, we will implement this project in different ways.”

Leader of Poland's conservative Law and Justice party Jaroslaw Kaczynski greets supporters in Warsaw after the election
PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski greets supporters in Warsaw on Sunday © Zarek Sokolowski/AP

If the final results match the opinion polls, PiS will struggle to secure a third term in government because its potential coalition partner – the far-right CNT – is expected to win only 6.4 percent of the vote, equivalent to just 14 seats.

The Law and Justice Party is expected to be given the first opportunity to form a government by President Andrzej Duda if the results confirm that it remains the largest party in Parliament.

The final results of the hotly contested election are not expected until late Monday or even Tuesday, because the vote-counting process was complicated by the referendum, which included two questions on immigration that PiS added to the ballot to excite its conservative supporters.

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The National Electoral Commission began publishing partial results on Monday morning, which showed PiS receiving 40.2 percent of the vote compared to 26.6 percent for the Civic Platform, with just over 10 percent of the votes counted. But although this initial lead was larger than in the opinion polls, it would not be enough for PiS to secure a majority with CNT support.

The election could also ease recent tensions between Warsaw and Kiev, which were largely sparked by PiS’ re-election bid. PiS has been at loggerheads with the EU, which has alleged that the government has been too generous in dealing with Ukrainian refugees, and has sought to appease agricultural voters by imposing a unilateral ban on Ukrainian grain imports earlier this year.

Turnout in parliamentary elections was on track to set a record since Poland’s return to democracy, according to preliminary data from Ipsos. The participation rate was estimated at about 73 percent, which is 11 percentage points higher than in the previous elections in 2019.

Analysts warned that fragmented and toxic politics in Poland made opinion polls likely to be less reliable than in previous elections.

Opinion polls after similar elections in Slovakia two weeks ago expected the leader of the liberal opposition to advance, but the final results put the populist candidate Robert Fico and his “Smir” party in the lead. “It is still possible that we will have a Slovak situation here,” Marcin Dumas, head of pollster Ipres, said before the vote on Sunday.

Government officials also warned that pollsters may not accurately record support for their party.

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“We think we have a silent majority,” Janusz Kowalski, deputy agriculture minister, said before Sunday’s vote. “I know a lot of voters who do not want to publicly announce their vote for PiS.”

However, only 40 percent of voters participated in the referendum, according to preliminary data, which is not enough to make it binding.

Tusk had called for a boycott of the referendum, which asked voters questions about strengthening border security, reducing illegal immigration, maintaining the current retirement age, and preventing sales of state-owned companies to foreign investors.