Polish Populists Lose in an Upset
The ruling populist party appears to have no path for a majority. Nobody knows what will happen next.
The votes are in. In Poland, it appears that the main opposition parties — Civic Coalition, Third Way, and The Left — have a path to winning back power. With 100 percent of the vote counted, the final result has the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) with the most votes, but no obvious way to maintain the majority they have held since 2015 in the main house of parliament, known as the Sejm. The final results are:
Civic Coalition 30.70%
Third Way 14.40%
The Left 8.61%
According to the Polish election commission, turnout registered at a mammoth 74.38 percent, a record since the country transitioned to democracy in 1989 and the largest recorded since 1919. (Warsaw registered nearly 85%.) The opposition also gained 16 seats to win 67 out of 100 mandates in the Senate, which has less power than the Sejm. The votes translate into the following breakdown in the 460-member Sejm:
Civic Coalition: 157
Third Way: 65
The Left: 26
The middle three parties would then form an opposition grouping. All of them actually are coalitions consisting of smaller parties, so they would be far from unified. Still, they would constitute a big majority in the Sejm, potentially holding 248 seats out of 460. That's not quite the 276 needed to overcome the veto of PiS President Andrzej Duda, who is term-limited through 2025, but it's big.
However, the new coalition will not take power soon. President Duda has until Nov. 14 to call a new session of parliament. He then has another 14 days to pick a new prime minister. That candidate has 14 days to win a vote of confidence in the Sejm. Potentially, this process could last into mid-December.
President Duda has said that he would choose a prime minister from the party that got the most votes, which would be his own PiS. On Oct. 15, incumbent PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said "We won!" and added, "In accordance with the rules of democracy...we will certainly try to build a parliamentary majority."
It's not clear how PiS would do this: it would be extremely difficult for Law and Justice and its de facto leader, Jaroslaw Kacyznski, to unite all of far-right Konfederacja (which has maintained that it will not join with any other party) into a coalition and try to pick off 19 more members into a majority. However, Kacyznski, 74, who serves as deputy prime minister and is a lifelong bachelor who has lived alone with several cats since his mother died about 10 years ago, is a wily politician who is deeply invested in Law and Justice maintaining power.
If PiS fails to form a government, parliament would then have 14 days to pick a prime minister and another 14 days for that candidate to win a majority, which could potentially bring this process into early 2024.
The new government would likely then try to undo what PiS has dubbed "good change": the subversion of democratic institutions to the ruling party.
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