Photo by Komarov Ego Via Unsplash
The ruling government in Poland will fall after last week’s Polish Parliamentary Election.
The ruling Law and Justice party lost 41 seats, while their rival, Civic Platform gained 23 seats.
Although Law and Justice still have more overall seats with 194 as compared to Civic Platform’s 157, a proposed European-centered coalition could replace the current ruling party.
Poland in recent years, has been dominated by deeply conservative and nationalistic policies,
This win could signal a shift for Poland and help the country build a stronger political relationship with the European Union.
If the leader of Civic Platform Donald Tusk can secure a coalition with Third Way, which won 65 seats, and New Left with 26 seats, he could lead a government of 248 in the 460-seat Sejm.
Voters are hopeful that a Tusk government could bring change to the rights of Women and Queer people.
Tusk will notably only become the Prime Minister. The President Remains Andrzej Duda until the next Poland Presidential election in 2025.
Without a working majority in the Polish Sejm, it is unrealistic to expect him to be able to get anything done.
A major reason for Poland’s vote comes down to relations with the European Union.
The European Union, a political and economic union that spans much of Europe, has had a strained relationship with Poland in the past few years. Due to the Polish Government’s actions, the EU froze billions of Euros scheduled for Poland.
In response, PiS (Law and Justice) publicly attacked the EU as part of its election campaign.
Another reason for the Polish people’s backlash to PiS comes in their appointment of political officials to neutral bodies such as courts and legal institutions. PiS instituted several restrictions on women’s right to access an abortion.
Tusk has said that the legalization of abortion up to 12 weeks is a priority for his government, and also reaffirmed that “abortion is a women’s section, not a priest’s, prosecutors, policemen, or party activists.”
The PiS has been known to fan the flames of conspiracies against the 2SLGBTQ+ community. In 2020 PiS would campaign primarily on fighting against LGBT ideology which the party claimed was more dangerous than communism. This has resulted in several cities declaring themselves LGBT-free zones.
These laws degrade the Polish LGBTQ+ community, Poland is the worst country in the EU to be gay. Poland lacks legal rights and protections for Queer people which include: no form of recognized same-sex partnership and no hate crime laws concerning gender or sexual identity. PiS has regularly pressed the issue and fails to understand that Queer Poles are no different from Straight Poles, being attracted to the same gender does not make an individual think differently, or make an individual any less deserving of basic human rights and dignity.
Repairing the constitutional and structural damage the PiS government inflicted in Poland will be one of the biggest factors of Mr. Tusk’s government.
A key contributing factor to Civic Platform’s success was the effective mobilization of voters in their 20s.
A stunning 70% of Poles aged 18 to 29 participated in the election. To court these voters, KO (Civic Platform) had to pivot from the traditional economic liberal bent of the party. Social spending, a plan to deliver childcare payments to young mothers, while maintaining welfare benefits, pay rises for teachers, and other public sector workers, as well as keeping the current retirement age all were added to the platform of KO.
The United Kingdom should study the Polish election closely as it has an opportunity to vote out its own right-wing government next year when the UK General Election is called.
Poland and the UK have similar cultural characteristics, such as deep contrast between rural and urban voters as well as youth and senior voters. A key differential is the election system other countries operate under. In the UK, and most Commonwealth countries such as Canada, elections are decided by the First Past The Post system. This sees the candidate who got the most votes claim all the spoils. In a Proportional System, in which Poland operates, parties draw seats based on their voting strength.
The Polish election sent a clear message against right-wing populism and towards institutions such as the European Union. With a 74.38% turnout, the Polish people stood firm with their democratic institutions. Time will tell if the United States does the same in their Presidential Election next year.