Poland's Opposition Parties Win Over Voters

Kaczynski loses majority in parliament after eight years of chaotic government
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 16, 2023 5:50 PM CDT
Poland's Opposition Parties Win Over Voters
Supporters of Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister celebrate at his party headquarters in Warsaw on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The majority of voters in Poland's general election supported opposition parties that promised to reverse democratic backsliding and repair the nation's relationship with allies, including the European Union and Ukraine, near-complete results showed Monday. The result was a defeat for the Law and Justice party and its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who have governed Poland for eight years with a conservative, nationalist, and sometimes anti-EU agenda, the AP reports. Although it remains Poland's biggest party, Law and Justice lost its majority in parliament, putting a centrist opposition led by former EU President Donald Tusk in a strong position to take over power, official results indicated, with over 99% of districts counted.

It was among the most important elections in an EU country this year, and the results have been anxiously awaited in Brussels, Berlin, and other capitals by those hoping that a step-by-step dismantling of checks and balances could be halted before a turn toward authoritarianism that would be hard to reverse. "I am really overjoyed now," Magdalena Chmieluk, a 43-year-old accountant, said Monday. She predicted that the opposition "will form a government and we will finally be able to live in a normal country, for real." After a bitter campaign, turnout was projected at over 74%, the highest level in the country's 34 years of democracy and surpassing the 63% who turned out in the historic 1989 vote that toppled communism, per the AP.

In Wroclaw, the lines were so long that voting continued until nearly 3am. Young voters particularly came out in force. The official count, which matched the results of an exit poll released Sunday night, suggested voters grew tired of the ruling party after eight years of divisive policies that led to street protests, divisions within families, and billions in funding held up by the EU over rule of law violations. As the count neared the end, Law and Justice had nearly 36% and the far-right Confederation, a possible ally, 7%. Three opposition parties led by Tusk's Civil Coalition together had more than 53%, enough for a comfortable majority in the 460-seat lower house of parliament. On Sunday evening, Tusk declared the end of Law and Justice rule. However, Poles could face weeks of uncertainty as Law and Justice said it would still try to build a new government led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

(More Poland stories.)

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