Despite repeated claims from several opposition politicians suggesting the end of democracy in Poland, recent parliamentary elections have proven that democracy is alive and well in the country, with no apparent threats in sight…
While the Law and Justice (PiS) party secured the most votes, they will not form the next government. The number of seats they fell short by to establish a majority is simply too large, and no miraculous event can change this. Although the opposition, in total, garnered more seats than the ruling party, the Civic Coalition (KO) did not overcome Law and Justice, as Donald Tusk frequently predicted.
Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, gets in a car after voting during parliamentary elections in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk, File)
The opposition’s seat count was significantly boosted mainly due to the stellar performance of the Third Way, a result not foreseen by any poll, and a loss in support for the Left and the Confederation.
Donald Tusk celebrated the election results, saying, “We did it.”
While it’s true that Tusk had an outstanding personal result, garnering over 538,000 votes in Warsaw, most of the success of the coalition was attributed to Third Way’s performance. Despite Tusk’s claims that there’s “no third way” and the repeated attacks on Third Way and Szymon Hołownia by radical opposition supporters, the party, combined with the Left, secured a majority of seats.
However, let’s not be under any illusion. It will be challenging for the current opposition parties, who have the majority of seats, to come to a consensus. The differences between Tusk and Zandberg or even between Kosiniak-Kamysz and Hołownia are vast. Still, voters would never forgive them if they didn’t reach an agreement. Moreover, no one is keen on early elections, as politicians are exhausted from a campaign that’s both a significant human and financial effort.
The success of the Third Way also signals a strong message from many young Poles, tired of the Tusk-Kaczynski rivalry. Catchphrases like “enough of the quarrels” resonated with them. I’ve always maintained that voters deserve respect, even if I disagree with their views, and I’ll never resort to insults. I understand young people’s need to escape from constant disputes, even if it is inherent to democracy. The current opposition needs to realize that the 7,640,854 PiS voters are here to stay, despite Rafał Trzaskowski’s claim that there’s no place for such views in Poland.
I often say that the favor of voters is unpredictable. This election highlighted that fact with interesting intra-list battles. People from the bottom of the list outperformed those at the top, proving that voters were making more informed choices rather than blindly supporting the list’s first candidate.
Record voter turnout underscores the continued polarization among Poles and their vision for the country. However, as demonstrated by the elections, democracy in Poland is far from over. The only potential threats are changes to the EU treaties, plans for EU centralization, and catering to the will of the biggest states. Alongside with inevitable societal shifts due to the “voluntary solidarity” with the EU’s migrant relocation mechanism and Russia’s growing imperial ambitions, these issues seemed insignificant to most voters. However, in the coming years, we might realize their importance.