Parliamentary elections in Poland: Law and Justice in Power
On 13th October, Poland's ruling rightwing party Law and Justice (PiS) won the elections, but lost Senate majority. What does this mean for ongoing relations with Poland and how does the new political makeup impact public affairs?
The Law and Justice (PiS), Jarosław Kaczyński’s party won with 43.6% of votes, and renewed its hold on the lower house of the Polish parliament (235 of 460 seats in Sejm) for the next four years to come. This allows them to form the government, which most likely will be led Mateusz Morawiecki.
Four other parties and coalitions managed to get the 5% threshold to enter the parliament.
The main opposition party, Civic Coalition (Koalicja Obywatelska, KO), won 27.4% of the votes (134 seats), which is followed by a returning after four years of absence social-democratic political party (SLD), with 12.4% of the votes (49 seats).
A conservative coalition (PSL - Koalicja Polska), associated with the anti-system party Kukiz’15 obtained 9.1% of the votes. With 6.4 %, the far-right Confederation entered the parliament for the first time in its history and should receive 13 seats.
Success in rural areas
The main base of PiS’ electorate was faithful to the nationalist party – 67.4% of village residents voted for Law and Justice. This can be seen as a consequence of the campaign led by the nationalist leader, Jarosław Kaczyński. The party leader has sought to mobilise the rural groups by setting the party as defender of family values against LGBT community and abortion. A campaign highly supported by the Church, to which the countryside’s population is strongly in favour.
By renewing the strategy that allowed them to take over the country in 2015, offering simple and concrete policies, PiS promised new family allowances, a raise of the minimum wage, and a significant tax decrease, justifying these measures as for the well-being of the country’s economy.
Although the populist party won legislative election, it lost the Senate to the opposition coalition. Law and Justice obtained 48 seats out of 100 - 12 seats less than in the previous legislature.
With a majority in the Upper House of the Parliament, the opposition is entitled to delay any legislation put forward by PiS, having gained 51 seats. This sets the stage for legislative clashes between the Eurosceptic government and the more liberal opposition. However, the risk remains that opposition senators may switch their allegiances to PiS.
What’s new on health
The discussions on who will be appointed in Morawiecki’s new team will take place over the course of the upcoming weeks. However, there are speculations that a senior politician from PiS has already offered the position of Minister of Health to Tomasz Grodzki, a member of Civic Platform (PO). Mr Grodzki's acceptance of the proposal would mean automatically his support for PiS, and thus the opposition would lose their voice in the Senate, where at the moment they have only two votes of advantage. In order to have the majority in both houses, Law and Justice are already preparing to change the state of play, as they have explored options for senators to be brought on their side.
The future of the current Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski is uncertain, and he might be replaced. During the election, PiS together with Łukasz Szumowski promised to improve access to public health and care systems, and raise public health expenditure to 160 billion PLN, which represents 6% of the country’s GDP, by 2024. They also pledged to build a new oncology centre, ensure a package of medical check-ups for every citizen, improve care for older people and set up of a fund for hospitals modernisation.
The result and way ahead
High levels of support for PiS should not be interpreted as a sign that Poland has become more nationalist, but it rather reveals the party’s ability to successfully target and mobilise voters by offering them policies based on direct social transfers.
The opposition parties chose to focus on democracy, values of tolerance and liberal policies but their lack of consistency and division into too many groups cost them the election results and thereby their seats in Sejm.