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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » December 30, 2010
Politics & Society
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PO Wins Local Elections
December 30, 2010   
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The governing Civic Platform (PO) emerged the winner in Poland’s local government elections Nov. 21 and Dec. 5, while the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party suffered a painful defeat. Independent contenders achieved spectacular success in cities, mostly winning re-election as mayors.

The PO won the largest number of seats in provincial assemblies—222, coming ahead of PiS, with 141. The junior coalition partner, the Polish People’s Party (PSL), was third, with 93 seats, and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) filled 85 seats. The remaining groups garnered 20 seats between them.

The PO won in 12 provincial assemblies, while PiS won in two and the PSL in one. In one assembly, the PO and PiS won the same number of seats. The PO gained 39.13 percent of the vote, PiS 25.13 percent, PSL 16.58 percent, and SLD 15.15 percent.

The PO secured a majority in Lubuskie, Opole, Lower Silesia, Silesia, Wielkopolska, Pomerania, West Pomerania, Kujawy-Pomerania, Warmia-Mazuria, Mazovia, Małopolska and ŁódĽ provinces. PiS won in the eastern Lublin and Podkarpacie provinces. The PSL won in ¦więtokrzyskie province. In Podlasie province, the PO and PiS gained the same number of seats.

Compared with the previous local government elections, PiS lost the most. The party won fewer seats than in 2006 in Wielkopolska, Opole, Lubuskie, Silesia, Kujawy-Pomerania, Warmia-Mazuria, Pomerania, ŁódĽ, West Pomerania, Lower Silesia and Małopolska provinces. The PO gained fewer seats in Lubuskie and Lower Silesia provinces, and the PSL in Opole, Silesia and Lower Silesia provinces.

Local groups managed to win seats in several provinces: the Social/Cultural Society of the Germans in the Opole District in Opole province, the National Local Government Union in Pomerania province, the Movement for the Autonomy of Silesia in Silesia province, the Local Government Alliance in Âwi´tokrzyskie province, and the Campaign Committee of Rafał Dutkiewicz, the mayor of Wrocław elected for another term, in Lower Silesia province.

Local campaign committees filled the largest number of seats in county and community/municipality councils. Among political parties, the PO has the largest number of councilors in counties, while the PSL has the largest number of councilors in communities/municipalities.

A total of 46,809 councilors were elected to 2,827 councils at all levels—community/municipality, county and province. A total of 1,180 councilors secured seats with no need to hold a vote because they ran in constituencies where the number of candidates was equal to or smaller than the number of councilors to be elected. Of 2,479 rural district administrators and town and city mayors that had to be elected, 1,741 were elected in the first round and 738 in the second round.

In elections to county councils, the PO garnered 1,315 seats, PiS 1,085, the PSL 999, the SLD 493, and the remaining campaign committees 2,398 seats between them. In elections to the councils of cities with county status, the PO gained 600 seats, PiS 365, the SLD 214, the PSL eight, and the remaining campaign committees 514 seats between them. In elections to the councils of municipalities with populations larger than 20,000, the PO won 1,138 seats, PiS 762, the SLD 377, the PSL 198, and the remaining campaign committees 3,093 seats between them. The PSL won the largest number of seats in the councils of communities/municipalities with populations below 20,000. The party gained 4,175 seats and was ahead of PiS, with 1,655 seats, the PO with 981, the SLD with 596, and the Polish Labor Party (PPP) with six. The remaining campaign committees won 24,867 seats between them. In elections to Warsaw’s borough councils—elections regarded as especially prestigious for parliamentary parties—the PO gained 187 seats, PiS 103, the SLD 40, and the remaining campaign committees 79 seats between them.

Turnout in the first round of elections for rural district administrator and mayor was 47.32 percent. In the second round, turnout was 35.31 percent.

In the mayoral elections, only 52 of 107 city mayors were elected in the first round, and only 18 of the newly elected mayors had been fielded by political parties—seven by the PO, six by the SLD, and five by PiS. Independent candidates won a total of 61 seats in the mayoral elections; the PO gained 25, the SLD 14, PiS six, and the PSL one seat.

The election showing of the SLD came as the greatest surprise. The party’s candidates filled mayoral posts in 14 large cities. The party scored the most sensational result in the southern city of Częstochowa, Silesia province, where its contender Krzysztof Matyjaszczyk won more than 70 percent of the vote in the second round.

The mayor of the coastal city of Gdynia, Wojciech Szczurek, was reelected after winning a spectacular 88 percent of the vote. Szczurek, an independent candidate with no party affiliation, is one of few local government members in Poland to have consistently improved his election results. In 2002, he won 77 percent of the vote and four years later 85 percent.

“In these elections we simply choose a good manager,” Szczurek said after securing reelection. “The voters were looking for people who would manage the city best and of whom they already have a high opinion.” Asked about his recipe for election success, Szczurek said, “Less publicity and media hype, more hard work and strategic thinking. It is important to look beyond a single term of office; one should plan one’s work ahead for more than just four years.”

In Wrocław, incumbent mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz was reelected in the first round, with almost 72 percent of the vote. In 2006, both the PO and PiS supported Dutkiewicz, who won around 86 percent of the vote. Now, the two parties fielded their own candidates—the PO’s choice was Sławomir Piechota and the PiS contender was Dawid Jackiewicz.

In Poznań, incumbent mayor Ryszard Grobelny beat contenders supported by parties. In 2002, he won the first direct mayoral election with the support of the PO. Four years later, running as an independent candidate, he beat the PO’s contender Maria Pasło-Wi¶niewska in the second round. In 2010, he fell less than 0.5 percent short of winning the mayoral post in the first round. In the second round, he gained more than 66 percent of the vote, beating the PO’s contender Grzegorz Ganowicz, with 33 percent. The campaign against an incumbent mayor also failed in Cracow, where Jacek Majchrowski, running as an independent candidate, gained almost 60 percent of the vote in the second round, beating PO contender Stanisław Kracik, the governor of Małopolska province.

In Warsaw, the prestigious race for mayor ended in the first round. Incumbent Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz gained almost 54 percent of the vote, beating PiS candidate Czesław Bielecki, with 23 percent, and the SLD’s Wojciech Olejniczak, with 13 percent. Gronkiewicz-Waltz will not be the only woman mayor of a large city. Hanna Zdanowska, supported by the PO, received more than 60 percent of the vote in ŁódĽ, defeating SLD candidate Dariusz Joński, who won 39 percent of the vote, in the second round. Witold Waszczykowski of PiS, former deputy foreign minister, performed poorly. He came in fourth place, with just over 15 percent of the vote in the first round.

PiS, the largest opposition party, did not win a single mayoral seat in any of Poland’s 16 provincial capitals. Radom was the only city with more than 200,000 residents where a PiS candidate was successful in the mayoral race. In this city, incumbent mayor Andrzej Kosztowniak won over 60 percent of the vote in the second round, defeating Piotr Szprendałowicz of the PO.

PiS’s performance in elections to provincial assemblies was similar to that in 2006. But the party is unlikely to keep or take power even in those provinces where it beat other groups. This is because PiS has problems finding coalition partners. As a result, provinces where PiS emerged the winner will be governed by coalitions formed by parties whose performance in the polls was weaker than PiS’s but which command a larger number of seats in the provincial assemblies between them.

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński appealed to members of his party to work toward winning the parliamentary election in the fall. Summing up PiS’s showing in the local elections, Kaczyński said the drop in support resulted from what he called the well-thought-out tactics of some PiS members who quit the party, or were expelled from it, just before the first round to set up a rival party called Poland Comes First (PJN). Kaczyński called this “treason” and accused his former colleagues of plotting for months to weaken or even break up PiS.
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