As the Polish Opposition wins elections, Tusk calls for a quick decision on appointing government

Donald Tusk @donaldtusk
It is expected that the new pro-EU coalition government between KO, Third Way, and the New Left will be led by former PM Donald Tusk, the leader of the Civic Coalition.

On October 17, the Polish Electoral Commission announced the results of the October 15th elections. The ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), won 35.4% of the vote, followed by the centrist Civic Coalition at 30.68%, the center-right Third Way at 14.41%, the New Left at 8.6%, and the far-right Confederation at 7.16%. According to the Electoral Commission, the voter turnout was 74.37%. In the Senate, PiS won 34.86% of the vote, followed by 28.93% for the Civic Coalition, 11.55% for the Third Way, 6.76% for Confederation, and 5.28% for the New Left.

Although the nationalist PiS party won the most votes, they lost their majority and did not have enough support to form a government without a coalition. They will not hold the 248 seats in parliament needed to rule alone. PiS won 194 seats in the 460-seat chamber.

The centrist Third Way, which includes the agrarian Polish People’s Party (PSL) and the Poland 2050 movement, announced on October 16 that they will not engage in any discussions with the PiS regarding forming a new government. 

It is expected that the new pro-EU coalition government between KO, Third Way, and the New Left will be led by former PM Donald Tusk, the leader of the Civic Coalition. A former European Council president, Tusk served as the Polish premier from 2007 to 2014. On Tuesday, Tusk called on President Andrzej Duda to take swift action to enable the formation of the new government.

Poland returns to Europe

PiS has been in power since 2015. During its rule, Poland turned into a champion of Euroscepticism – a strong ally of the far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán – questioned the EU values, restricted media freedom, attacked judiciary independence, promoted ultra-conservative religious views, imposed a party regime on the public administration and the diplomatic corp, pushed a racist campaign against the LGBTI people and orchestrated a hysteric anti-migration and anti-refugee policy. 

A KO-led government would mark a massive shift in Poland after eight years of conflict between PiS and the EU over all these issues.

In a statement on social media platform X, Tusk urged the president to make quick and energetic decisions as people await the first decisions. The combined seats of KO, the Third Way, and the New Left are enough to form a stable coalition government, with 248 seats. The leaders of the three groups are in constant contact, and talks are ongoing about the future government’s shape. 

However, forming such a government could take weeks, if not months. Before the vote, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, said he would give the first shot at forming a cabinet to the group or party that won most ballots. With no party indicating a willingness to join a PiS-led government, it seems unlikely that the nationalist party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski will secure a third term. In that event, Duda will invite Tusk as the leader of the second biggest party to attempt to form a government.

A polarised society

The presence of PiS in the government has led to a significant split in Polish society. The election campaign was marked by harsh and divisive rhetoric, which may have contributed to the high turnout of over 74%, the highest in Poland since the fall of communism in 1989. Many younger voters participated for the first time.

During the electoral campaign, PiS positioned itself as the defender of the Polish borders and sovereignty. It portrayed the vote as a battle against uncontrolled migration and interference in national life by unelected EU bureaucrats.

Marek Suski, an influential PiS member and MP, showed how PiS leaders think when he told public broadcaster TVP, “Evil has prevailed in Poland, temporarily.”

The opposition warned of the potential risks of a third term for PiS, citing concerns about the country’s isolation and the possibility of a “Polish exit.”

However, the three parties may face complex negotiations on issues such as abortion and LGBT rights. Third Way is driven by Catholic values and would support reversing the 2021 near-total ban on terminations by restoring the right to abortion in cases of fetal defects. But it would not agree to further liberalisation upfront.

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