Polish elections: a mixed bag for the eurosceptic ruling party

, by Madelaine Pitt

Polish elections: a mixed bag for the eurosceptic ruling party
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is likely to remain in power following the election results. Flickr: Kancelaria Premiera

Poland’s Law and Justice Party, which combined promises of further increased welfare spending with anti-LGBT rhetoric during its campaign, has reinforced its majority in the parliament but lost the senate.

The party secured almost 44% of vote in Sunday’s election, maintaining its majority of 235 out of a total of 460 seats in the Polish lower chamber, the “Sejm”. However, a pact among opposition parties looks set to allow them to take control of the upper chamber, the Senate, with 51 of 100 seats, and thus hamper the ruling party’s ability to make legislation.

The re-election of Law and Justice comes at a time when voters are enjoying the benefits of Poland’s booming economy, the largest in the former Eastern bloc. On top of this, lavish welfare payments have buoyed support for the government among working class voters and families.

The main opposition, a liberal centre-right group named Civic Coalition, won just over a quarter of the vote. It’s a disappointing outcome for a party which governed from 2007 to 2015 under the guidance of the now President of the European Council Donald Tusk.

The result means more headaches for the EU, which has already locked horns multiple times with Poland since Law and Justice gained power in 2015 over controversial legal changes. These changes, which eroded the independence of the judiciary system and the media and threatened minority rights, have got Poland into hot water with the European Court of Justice more than once.

However, the opposition’s majority in the Senate should now mean that drastic changes to the constitution are no longer feasible, as such legislation must be approved by both chambers.

Current Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is likely to keep his job after securing the backing of party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Kaczynski has publically claimed that LGBT people represent a “threat to Polish identity” while regional party officials have tried to ensure “LGBT ideology-free” zones.

The targeting of the LGBT community is seen by many as a replacement for the anti-migrant stance that the party emphasised heavily in the run-up to its 2015 victory. It has remained eurosceptic throughout, holding that the EU tramples on Polish national sovereignty.

The leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, of which Law and Justice is a member, tweeted his congratulations to the party. The EU is yet to release an official statement.

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