Poland’s election a ‘triumph of both democracy and liberalism’



Centrist and progressive forces appeared capable of forming a new government in Poland after securing more seats in a critical general election on Sunday, despite the governing nationalist party, Law and Justice, winning the most votes for a single party, The Times reports:

Exit polls showing a strong second place finish by the main opposition group, Civic Coalition, and better than expected results for two smaller centrist and progressive parties suggested a dramatic upset that would frustrate the governing party’s hope of an unprecedented third consecutive term. 

Unlike Hungary whose nationalist prime minister Viktor Orbán looks un-ejectable, Poland has proved itself a resilient democracy, The FT’s Ben Hall adds. Turnout on Sunday was almost 73 per cent, massive by Polish standards and the highest for 34 years, a sign that many Poles knew what was at stake.

But the electoral systems are different in Poland and Hungary, Kim Lane Scheppele tweeted. Hungary has many first-past-the-post districts; Poland has none. The Polish opposition deserves lots of credit for the victory – but so does the electoral system which allows 3 separate opposition parties to run!

“What it means for Europe is a major shift,” said Rosa Balfour, director of Carnegie Europe, a Brussels think tank. “If we get a government without Law and Justice, the relationship between Warsaw and Brussels, which has deteriorated steadily, would change. It also shows that Polish society can make independent decisions even if the media is government controlled,” she told The Washington Post.

Piotr Buras, the head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, declared the election “a triumph of both democracy and liberalism” that “opens the way for a massive reorientation of Poland’s domestic and European policy.”

But some observers believe the PiS will not go quietly.

“If the opposition really manages to win or has enough votes to form a coalition, it’s not that on the 16th of October, we will all be sitting and singing Kumbaya and everything will be fine,” said Maria Skóra, a researcher at the Institute for European Politics (IEP), in Berlin. “The thing is that Law and Justice will not give up their powers too easily,” she told Vox. 

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