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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » June 17, 2009
POLITICS
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PO Landslide in Euro Elections
June 17, 2009 By W.Ż.    
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The ruling center-right Civic Platform (PO) party won a landslide victory in this country's second elections to the European Parliament June 7, gaining half the 50 seats allocated to Poland.

PO won 44.43 percent of the vote, according to the State Electoral Commission, which announced the final election results June 8. The opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party came second with 27.4 percent of the vote, the coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Labor Union (UP) parties came third with 12.34 percent, and the Polish People's Party (PSL), the junior partner in the ruling coalition, came fourth with 7.01 percent. The result means 25 seats in the new parliament for PO, 21 seats for PiS, 7 seats for the SLD-UP and 3 seats for the PSL.

The remaining parties running for parliament did not manage to cross the 5-percent election threshold. These were the Center-Left Alliance for the Future (2.44 percent), the radical farmers' party Samoobrona (1.46 percent), the Right-Wing Party of the Republic of Poland (1.95 percent), the euroskeptic Libertas party (1.14 percent), the Union for Realpolitik (1.10 percent), the Polish Labor Party (0.7 percent), the Polish Socialist Party (0.02 percent) and the Forward Poland Piast party (0.02 percent).

Low turnout
The election turnout was 24.53 percent and was higher than in Poland's first European Parliamentary elections in 2004 when only 20.9 percent of the electorate went to the polls. This means that, of the 30 million of Poles eligible to vote, 3.27 million voted for PO, 2.017 million for PiS, 908,000 for SLD-UP and 516,000 for PSL.

The highest turnout of 50.86 percent was in the Podkowa Le¶na district outside Warsaw where 1,634 people of the 3,211 eligible to vote went to the polls.

Euro deputy Jerzy Buzek (PO), who was prime minister 1997-2001 and who is Poland's candidate for the post of European Parliament president, performed the best in the elections, with over 393,000 people casting their votes for him in the southern Silesia constituency.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk is pushing for Buzek to receive support in the EPP, the European parliament's largest political group, of which PO and PSL are members, and in the parliament as a whole. Before the election, Tusk publicly said he "guaranteed" that Buzek would get the post on condition that PO scored a good election result.

Zbigniew Ziobro (PiS), justice minister 2005-2007, came in second after Buzek with almost 336,000 votes in the Małopolska-¦więtokrzyskie constituency. Danuta Hübner, the outgoing EU commissioner for regional policy who ran on the PO ticket in Warsaw, came third with slightly over 311,000 votes.

A first for PO
The election results mean PO is the first ruling party since the fall of communism in 1989 to retain public support a year and a half after coming to power. It managed to do so despite the global economic crisis. Its results augur well for PO ahead of the 2010 presidential election and the parliamentary elections a year later.

Tusk is expected to run for president and is now way ahead of all his rivals in the popularity ratings, including incumbent president Lech Kaczyński. Political experts also say that if PO performs as well in the 2011 elections as it did in the European Parliamentary elections, it will have a parliamentary majority and would be able to rule independently without needing to form a coalition.

In this situation, it comes as no surprise that following the June 7 elections some PiS politicians voiced sharp criticism of the party's election campaign and PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński. Adam Bielan and Michał Kamiński, regarded as the main architects of the campaign, came in for the strongest criticism. Ziobro, the strongest PiS performer in the vote, said the party needed to "reflect on the way it communicates with society and perhaps sideline some of the people in charge of this."

Kaczyński, irritated by the criticism from the popular former minister, said Ziobro "should now be learning foreign languages six or eight hours a day so as not to be a fourth-rate EU deputy."

Election upset
One of the greatest surprises of the June 7 elections was the defeat of Marian Krzaklewski, founder and leader of the now-defunct Solidarity Election Action (AWS) movement, which governed Poland in 1997-2001. Krzaklewski ran on the PO ticket in the Podkarpacie region as number one on the party's list and was sharply criticized by his former colleagues from the Solidarity trade union. They claimed he was running on the ticket of a party that was hostile to trade unions. He won only 25,000 votes and lost not only to Tomasz Poręba of PiS, who gained almost 85,000 votes, but also Elżbieta Łukacijewska, who ran as number two on the PO ticket.

Fourteen politicians who have been EU deputies in the past five years won seats in the new European Parliament: Buzek, Małgorzata Handzlik, Filip Kaczmarek, Janusz Lewandowski, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Bogusław Sonik and Tadeusz Zwiefka of PO, Adam Bielan, Ryszard Czarnecki, Michał Kamiński and Konrad Szymański of PiS, Adam Gierek, Lidia Geringer d'Oedenberg and Bogusław Liberadzki of the SLD.

The composition of the Polish parliament will also change as 17 deputies move to the European Parliament. They will be replaced in the Polish parliament by the candidates who came just behind them in the 2007 elections.
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