Photo: Janek Skarzynski Agence France-Presse The leader of the Citizen Coalition party and leader of the pro-European opposition, Donald Tusk, in front of supporters after the announcement of the poll results at the exit of the polls on Sunday.
Has Poland just turned the page on eight years of national populism, tinged with attacks on the rule of law and acrimonious relations with Brussels? “We have won democracy, we have won freedom, we have won our beloved Poland! » exclaimed a smiling Donald Tusk, on the stage set up in the grounds of the Warsaw Ethnographic Museum. In response, thunderous cheers erupted for the main Polish opposition figure and leader of the liberal-centrist Civic Coalition (KO). The democratic opposition won the legislative elections on October 15, according to exit polls giving it a clear victory. These are not official results, the unveiling of which will be late due to record attendance.
If the ruling national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party leads with 36.8% of the vote, it would not obtain enough seats to govern on its own in such a configuration. It is the three opposition parties facing it that would garner enough votes to form a coalition government: KO, which comes second with 31.6%, the Agrarian and Christian Democratic Third Way, with 13%, and the New Left, with 8.6%. According to these projections, their total number of seats would amount to 248, well above the threshold of 231 (out of 460 in total) to form a possible coalition government.
The extreme party right-libertarian Konfederajca, who hoped to “turn the tables” during these elections, would have collected only 6.2% of the votes, well below the 10 to 15% hoped for, the formation having gained popularity in voting intentions in recent months.
“PiS has lost its ability to govern, and the opposition is ready to take power. The exit poll can still change, but, due to the very poor result of Konfederacja and the good results of other small opposition parties, the distribution of seats will prevent PiS from forming a government”, analyzes Wojciech Przybylski, director from the Visegrad Insight think tank.
Record participation rate
The participation was record, unheard of since 1989: Poles converged on the polls at 72%, again according to the exit study. The turnout was massive, in Warsaw as elsewhere in the country or in polling stations abroad, which were full to bursting.
A sign, if ever there was one, of the momentous nature of this election, considered by many defenders of the rule of law as the most important since the end of the communist dictatorship. A third mandate for PiS, in fact, would consolidate the authoritarian drift at work since its accession to power in 2015. Since then, the executive has taken control of a large part of the judicial system, the audiovisual sector has been brought to heel and the right to abortion, strongly restricted.
These elections, if they were not fraudulent, nevertheless remain tainted by a profound imbalance, the campaign having been described by the daily liberalGazeta Wyborcza of “the most unjust in recent Polish history.”
In question, “a certain number of unfair practices are anchored in the political system” shaped since 2015, underlines Wojciech Przybylski, director of the Visegrad Insight think tank. Public broadcasting, under the orders of PiS, serves as a relay for government propaganda, having raised the migratory scarecrow, a real electoral fuel, or depicting Donald Tusk as a national enemy.
The referendum organized by the executive on the same day of the vote, relating in particular to the question of the distribution of asylum seekers on a European scale, was also accused of serving electoral interests. “His real goal was to increase limited campaign spending to dominate advertising space paid for by state-owned companies. This is in fact a fraudulent use of taxpayers' money for the political marketing of a single party,” says Wojciech Przybylsk.
Within PiS, the speech also had strong overtones of victory. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki welcomed the fact that “no other party would have managed to win three parliamentary elections in a row under the Third Polish Republic.” “The results of the polls give us a fourth victory in the history of the party, the third in a row, it is a great success for our formation,” said Jarosław Kaczyński, adding that “days of struggle and tension are waiting for us.” “The question is whether we will turn this success into a new mandate. […] We will do everything in our power to continue to implement our program, despite the coalition that is against us. »
A period of turbulence risks marking the political scene in the weeks to come. Because even if the scenario of a majority of the opposition is confirmed, everything suggests that it will not be able to access the government apparatus any time soon.
President Andrzej Duda, himself from PiS, will probably entrust the mission of forming a new government to the party with the most votes, namely his own. But the upheaval of political forces, as it is taking shape, in the Polish Diet, will derail the hopes of the executive remaining in power.
“If the results are more or less in line with the exit polls, PiS will not be able to form a government. They have a period of two weeks after the first meeting of the Diet of the new legislature, i.e. until the end of November at most,” explains Anna Wójcik, assistant professor at the Institute of Legal Sciences of the Polish Academy of science.
However, the three opposition parties would then risk rejecting a vote of confidence. “Then it will be the Diet's turn to choose a new candidate for the post of prime minister, so that a coalition government of opposition parties risks being formed,” continues Anna Wójcik, who believes that “the PiS could continue to govern until mid-December.”
A period during which the party “will seek to cling to power as long as possible, even if it means entrenching itself in institutions to prevent change effective power”, predicts Wojciech Przybylski, “but the PiS will not be able to resist the inevitable change for too long, and will have to give in.”
A vast project awaits the opposition in the event of a confirmed victory: attempt to reestablish a trampled rule of law, a state apparatus already put in battle order in the service of a party. “It will be about reversing the negative effects of democratic backsliding, but also the economy and the position within the European Union,” says Anna Wójcik. “There are already legislative proposals tabled by civil society organizations to restore key elements of the rule of law and opposition parties have pledged in the past to support expert proposals. »