What are the prospects for the opposition coalition to form a government?
Polish President Andrzej Duda will likely allow the current Law and Justice Party (PiS) government and its current Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to attempt to form a new government, as they remain the prime minister. largest single party in parliament. But they risk not obtaining a majority. The opposition Civic Coalition, led by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, would then be in a good position to form a new government, although the opposition could still face challenges.
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Tusk will need his own centrist political alliance to find common ground with the left-wing Lewica and center-right Third Way blocs. The glue that binds these three together – their shared aversion to democratic backsliding under two consecutive PiS-led governments – should prove themselves stronger than what divides them, particularly on issues such as abortion, social housing and the protection of farmers. So, although President Duda, an independent candidate but with the support of the PiS government, could slow down the process, Poland can probably expect a new government led by Tusk in December 2023.
Do the results change Warsaw’s position on relations with the European Union?
As a former president of the European Council, Tusk is deeply pro-European Union (EU). He promised to reverse many of PiS’s policies regarding judicial independence, media freedom and lack of respect for the rule of law. This would do good to the ears of European institutions, many of whose officials want to restore liberal and democratic principles in Poland. Tusk hopes to unlock billions of euros in European funding allocated to Poland as part of the recovery fund after the COVID-19 pandemic, “Next Generation EU”, but this was frozen due to the ongoing conflict between Brussels and Warsaw.
But keeping these promises could prove more difficult than it seems. Tusk will have to overcome resistance within Polish institutions, which have been under PiS control since 2015, and pro-PiS President Duda has the constitutional power to veto legislation. An even bigger question is whether Tusk will be able to shake things up when it comes to Poland joining the euro. As long as Poland remains outside the eurozone, it cannot hope to play a leading role in shaping the future of the EU.
Will a new government have a different approach to the war in Ukraine?
Even with a new government, Poland will likely stay the course and maintain its leadership role within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the EU when it comes to supporting Ukraine.
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The September 2023 fallout between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at the United Nations Annual General Assembly over future arms deliveries and ongoing issues. dispute over grain imports from Ukraine to Poland were mainly motivated by electoral considerations. PiS resisted challenges from right-wing parties and faced pressure to continue protecting Polish farmers. Poland’s support for Ukraine is now expected to rebound. Tusk will continue to support Ukraine’s war effort against Russia, although it will also have to deal with coalition partners who will insist on maintaining current protectionist measures on grain imports.
What led to the decline in popularity of PiS?
Compared to Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has been in power since 2010, Poland has always had a more vibrant civil society, and PiS has failed to silence it. The country has also seen less emigration of those who do not support the regime. As a result, turnout reached an all-time high of over 74 percent, well above the previous record of 62 percent in 2019. This was primarily due to a dramatic increase in youth participation. Turnout among voters under the age of thirty increased from just 46 percent in 2019 to 68 percent in 2023.
The electorate also felt that Poland had gone too far in eroding the rule of law, and that some of PiS’s anti-abortion policies and its harsh treatment of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole were inappropriate. not popular beyond its base. Many voters also worried about their country’s growing isolation within the EU and believed the opposition led by Tusk would restore Poland to its place at the heart of Europe.
What does the vote say about broader populist movements in Europe?
The result underlines that there is nothing inevitable about illiberal populist parties coming to power – even if the September 2023 victory of the pro-Putin party left-wing populist Robert Fico in Slovakia reminds us that this threat has not completely disappeared either.
It also demonstrates the competing forces to which populism is subject. On the one hand, the proportional representation of European parliamentary democracy means that populists often end up governing in coalition with centrist parties. They then end up having to compromise on many of their most extreme ideological positions, as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni did. PiS could only stay in power if it finds coalition partners willing to do so, which could prove a daunting challenge given its antagonistic governing style over the past eight years.
On the other hand, once they have been in power for long enough, like Orban’s Fidesz, it becomes more difficult to stop the drift. towards a “competitive” authoritarianism, where the election outcome is virtually guaranteed. But even in Orban’s case, as in that of Poland under PiS, it is clear that there are limits to how far these leaders can go as long as they depend on billions of dollars from state funds. Europeans.