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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » June 3, 2015
Politics & Society
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Political Earthquake
June 3, 2015   
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Poles have elected a new president and are preparing to elect a new parliament in the fall. The result of the presidential election came as a shock for those in power—the opposition candidate, Andrzej Duda, won, even though just a few weeks earlier he was widely seen as destined for a first-round defeat. The incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski, seemed to be a shoo-in for reelection, enjoying approval ratings of more than 70 percent in some polls at the beginning of the year. It turned out, however, that a poor election campaign, coupled with bad advisers and a few controversial decisions and inconsistent statements, can turn the situation around within days. A shock defeat in the first round did not produce the expected change in strategy: Komorowski lost in the runoffs despite slightly outperforming Duda in two televised debates.

The upshot is that Polish politics may be in for a tectonic shift. If the Law and Justice (PiS) party manages to win the parliamentary elections, as the polls seem to indicate, the conservatives will gain a monopoly on power for the next four years. This scenario is setting alarm bells ringing within the Civic Platform (PO), whose eight years in government may now be drawing to an end.

However, the presidential election had one other winner—Paweł Kukiz, a popular rock musician, who, running as an independent candidate, finished third in the first round, garnering nearly 21 percent of the vote. Immediately after his triumph, Kukiz announced a plan to establish an anti-establishment social movement that would run in parliamentary elections. If such a movement indeed emerges, taking advantage of the popularity Kukiz gained during the presidential campaign, a third force could appear in the Polish parliament that could play the role of kingmaker during efforts to form a future governing coalition—assuming that a coalition is needed.

Meanwhile, the left-wing opposition seems to be in crisis. Two leftist contenders in the presidential race, Magdalena Ogórek, fielded by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), and Janusz Palikot, leader of Your Movement, won a paltry 3.8 percent of the vote between them; Ogórek garnered 2.38 percent, and Palikot won 1.42 percent. This was the most embarrassing result for left-wingers in the last quarter century of Polish politics. It is no wonder then that these more-than-disappointing results triggered an almost immediate exodus of politicians from both left-wing groups in an attempt to create a “new left” under the provisional name Freedom and Equality. But hardly anyone believes that this dozen or so leftist politicians will be able to build a new party capable of winning parliamentary seats within just four months. The only leftist party that, according to polls, has a realistic chance of winning more than 5 percent of the vote and entering the new parliament is the Democratic Left Alliance, led by veteran politician Leszek Miller. In other EU countries, left-wingers have been enjoying stable support of at least 20-25 percent. Could this mean that a left wing is not needed in Polish politics at all?
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