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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » August 1, 2013
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In Brief
August 1, 2013   
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Blow for PO as PiS Takes Elbląg
Poland’s governing Civic Platform (PO) has suffered a painful defeat in a local election in the northeastern city of Elbląg, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Donald Tusk as he tries to stem falling support for his party in the opinion polls.

On July 7, in the second round of an early election for mayor of Elbląg, a city of 125,000 in Warmia-Mazuria province, the PO was outperformed by the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, whose contender Jerzy Wilk garnered 51.74 percent of the vote ahead of the PO’s Elżbieta Gelert with 48.26 percent. Turnout was 34.69 percent.

The early mayoral election in Elbląg came on the heels of an April referendum in which residents voted to oust PO Mayor Grzegorz Nowaczyk and the PO-dominated City Council.

The Elbląg elections aroused interest that extended far beyond the city and the region. Both PiS and the PO deployed their big guns in the election campaign, including the leaders of both parties.

“The Elbląg victory shows that we can win country-wide,” said PiS chief Jarosław Kaczyński. “I would like to thank people for all the votes cast for our candidate, especially those who did not support us before. We have shown that there is no ‘glass ceiling’ over our party—which means we can achieve very good results, even in those areas where PiS did not enjoy a high level of support until now.”

PO parliamentarian Andrzej Halicki said, “This is a big defeat for us and we have to draw conclusions from it. The citizens of Elbląg showed us the red card, and in terms of the whole country we have to take that as a serious warning. The time has come for some self-reflection and for getting down to work. This is a signal that we need to communicate with our voters better and also with one another. Many voters have distanced themselves from us.”

In City Council elections in Elbląg, which were held together with the first round of the mayoral election June 22, none of the four parties that won seats secured a majority. PiS now has 10 councilors in the 25-member City Council, the PO has seven, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has five, and a local election committee linked to the Polish People’s Party (PSL) has three. It is too early to say what kind of coalition will emerge in the city, but the fact a politician from Law and Justice is now mayor may mean that Elbląg will be governed by the opposition.
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