Faith Monahan ’24
On Sunday, Oct. 15, Poland held parliamentary elections with exit polls showing that the ruling Law and Justice Party is expected to have lost the parliamentary majority that its maintained over the last eight years. The election saw the highest turn out at 72.9% according to exit polling. The previous record was set at 62.7% in 1989 when Poland first became a democracy. Results will likely be confirmed on Oct. 17. The party is estimated to receive 200 out of 460 seats in the lower house of parliament. The far-right party Confedera won an estimated 12 seats. The opposition coalition consisting of centrist and center-left parties is estimated to have won a majority of 248 seats combined setting it up to be able to propose and form the government.
The Law and Justice Party has received criticism after rising to power in 2015 due to its populist right-wing stances. The party has encroached on the judiciary and women’s rights in Poland. The party has made efforts to restrict Poland’s ban on abortion, succeeding in 2020 through a decision by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruling that abortion in the case of fatal fetal abnormality was unconstitutional under Polish law. Several women have been expected to have died from sepsis and other complications due to the ban. All judges on the Constitutional Tribunal were appointed by Law and Justice. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the Law and Justice’s Party appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, a separate judiciary chamber from the Constitutional Tribunal, stating that it does not consist of an “independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” The party has also increasingly stated that it will withdraw some of its support for Ukraine. Many supporters of the party live in rural areas of Poland, and many of its economic policies provided transfer payments to families with children. Critics have pointed to the party’s encroachment of the judiciary branch.
Referendums were also held on Poland’s election day. Many Poles did not vote in the referendum, potentially invalidating its results. Questions on the ballot included “Do you support the selling off of state assets to foreign entities, leading to the loss of Poles’ control over strategic sectors of the economy?” and “Do you support the admission of thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, in accordance with the forced relocation mechanism imposed by the European bureaucracy?” The opposition parties have accused Law and Justice of intending to evoke EU skepticism and anti-immigrant sentiments amongst Poles when casting their parliamentary ballots.
Polish has become politically polarized over the past decade. Previous Prime Minister and leader of the Civic Coalition Party Donald Tusk announced the exit poll results as a victory for Poland’s democracy. However, some supporters of the Law and Justice Party view the results differently. Current President Andrzej Duda was a former member and current ally of the Law and Justice Party, and any legislation passed through parliament will require the president’s signature.