The European elections in Poland

The European elections in Poland

Katarzyna Cyrbus May 2019

Turnout up, votes divided

It was either a case of a successful political campaign that mobilised voters, or a sign of greater awareness of the European Union, but in any case, these elections are clearly different. According to the official results, the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) received the greatest support (45.4%), whereas the European Coalition (KE), consisting of a few opposition parties, took second place with 38.5% of support. Voter turnout was also up, with a record of 45.7%.

No extremist or anti-EU parties from Poland

Poland’s 52 MEP seats will be shared between three groups. Law and Justice (PiS) won 27 seats, the European Coalition won 22, and 3 seats will go to the third party, a new political force in Poland called Wiosna (‘Spring’). All the smaller groups, including leftist ‘Left together’ and the anti-EU ‘Confederation’, did not reach the required 5% threshold.

Voter turnout almost doubled

According to the National Election Commission, almost 46% of eligible voters went to the polls. This is a record result: turnout in Poland for European elections has never exceeded 25%.

Polish politicians representing two major political teams ran with a narrative during political campaign that European elections are a breaking point in Polish politics. It turns out that this message was better received by the supporters of the ruling party rather than by those in favour of the opposition. Mobilisation of undecided voters has so far been interpreted as the domain of opposition parties, as the ruling party could count on a solid electoral base. This time it seems that the winning party mobilised new voters better than other political forces. The analysis of the distribution of votes shows that the number of voters increased particularly in rural areas, where Law and Justice receives the biggest support in general. Results show that the turnout there rose by 20%, and the biggest numbers were reached in the areas where the winning party focused its political campaign during the last days.

Young Poles still not interested in voting

Voters over 40 were a driving force of the elections and ensured success for Law and Justice. The most active in these elections proved to be those aged 50-59. The turnout in this group reached 54%. They were followed by voters over 60 (48% voted). Almost half of all aged 40–49 went to the polls. The voter turnout among the younger part of the population – under 25 – was below 30%. Surveys suggest that young people are eager to vote, but on Election Day, they stay at home. Possible plans for e-voting could help increase turnout in this demographic.

What does it mean for Poland?

  • The second biggest force may lose unity, but it doesn’t have to mean losing the chance to win the next elections. Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the second party in the EU elections, the European Coalition, said that only the first half of the match is lost, underlining the unity and determination to win in national elections in the autumn. The lower than expected result of the Coalition makes it difficult to predict that the group will stay together until national elections, as there will be speculation to whether any advantage was gained from uniting in the first place.
  • New faces after the EU elections. The Polish government will soon be reshuffled. A few government ministers have won seats, including the Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydło, the Minister for Internal Affairs Joachim Brudzinski, the Minister for Education Anna Zalewska, and the Deputy Minister for Justice Patryk Jaki. With high profile, senior cabinet members going to Brussels, domestic politics will see the emergence of new faces.
  • The fight between two major political forces will be even stronger. The political campaign will continue, smoothly transitioning from a European to a national one. The public discourse has so far focused on national issues and it will continue to do so, as the election marathon in Poland goes on. The national parliamentary campaign will be a litmus test for new political groups, such as Wiosna/Spring.