Poland: Terrible Twins suffer election defeat

Right-wing populist government defeated

Poland’s right-wing populist government headed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of the Polish President, has been ousted following last Sunday’s snap parliamentary elections. The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) lost the parliamentary elections in what was seen by most people as a plebiscite for or against the rule of the Kaczynski twins.

The opposition neoliberal party, Civic Platform (PO), won with a massive 41.5% of the vote against 32.1% for PiS.

The turnout for this election was 54%, which was up by 14% compared to the last parliamentary elections two years ago. This is a result of the determination of a large part of Polish society to remove Kaczynski from power and reflects a growing polarisation in Poland. The percentage points do not tell the whole story. Civic Platform’s vote soared from 2.8m to 7.4m. The Law and Justice party increased its vote by half – almost 1.9 million ballots.

Two other parties managed to get into parliament – 13.1% voted for the Liberals and Democrats, a coalition of the post-Stalinist social democrats (SLD and SDRP) with a smaller liberal party, whilst the Polish Peasants’ Party (PSL) got 8.9%. The two junior coalition parties in the PiS government, the populist farmers’ party Self-Defence (1.5%) and the ultra-right League for Polish Families (1.3%) were soundly thrashed.

The Polish Labour Party, ignored by the media and excluded by the main opinion pollsters, received 1%.

Tens of thousands of Poles also voted in Britain, Ireland and other countries. In Britain over 60% voted for PO, in Scotland the figure was a staggering 75%. The majority of those voting for PO were voting negatively against PiS and Kaczynski and what they see as a return to the Dark Ages, where religious fundamentalism, witch-hunts and xenophobia are the order of the day.

In contrast to PiS, many, particularly younger voters, see PO as a modern European party. However, PO is a neoliberal party which is pro-business and pro-European Union. In power it will attempt to introduce a flat rate income tax and privatise the remainder of the state sector, as well as cutting state expenditure. This is why these elections are not a victory for Polish workers, who still have no representation in parliament. Poland has gone out of the frying pan and into the fryer.

Whilst PO now holds 60% of the seats in the Senate, it does not have a majority in the lower house and will be forced to form a coalition with PSL. However, whether PSL will manage to water down the new government’s neoliberal agenda remains to be seen.

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October 2007