New(ish) set up of the Polish political scene

New(ish) set up of the Polish political scene

Iga Wilczyńska April 2019

The Polish political scene has been polarised for over a decade, with two parties in the lead: Law and Justice (PiS, ruling since 2015) and Civic Platform (PO, which ruled in 2007-2015). 4 years after the national parliamentary elections, support for PiS remains stable and it has a high chance of re-election later this year. The opposition is determined like never before to move power away from PiS. This is why opposition parties have united for the EP elections, but it is unclear whether this coalition will last for the general elections in October.

The European Coalition – an alliance of PO (Civic Platform), PSL (Polish Peasants’ Party), SLD (Democratic Left Alliance), the Greens, and Nowoczesna (Modern Party) was established despite differences in their respective programmes and each party being politically independent. The Coalition focuses on EU matters and has promised to strengthen Poland’s position in the EU and improve the quality of life, access to services, transport, and EU funds. The leaders present the European elections as a major choice that will determine how Poland will function as a state and who will run it. The Coalition presents itself as the guarantor of Poland’s strong position in the EU and the rule of law.

On the other side, Law and Justice has put forward very experienced politicians at the top of its lists – mostly current members of government or former MEPs. The party decided on this strategy to compete against the European Coalition, as both groupings, according to the polls, are virtually neck and neck (PiS 38% vs Coalition 35%).

What has PiS promised to secure the public’s support? Jarosław Kaczynski – the party’s unquestionable leader – announced a series of new programmes and reforms, hoping that it will lead PiS towards victory, as did the famous social 500+ programme in the previous campaign. PiS promised, amongst others, Pension Plus – a new programme providing a 13th pension; an extension of the 500+ programme, providing a pay-out for the first child in a family; and lowering the costs of labour.  Although officially the newly promised benefits have nothing in common with the European elections, their timing is not a coincidence. They are likely to be introduced late spring, starting in May. What’s more, their result is already visible, given their recent success in the polls and the increasing advantage of PiS.

Who hasn’t joined any of the main groupings? There are a few initiatives, such as the brand-new left-leaning Wiosna (Spring) established by Robert Biedron – the charismatic former mayor of Słupsk. Although Wiosna started with 14 percent support in the polls, this has since decreased and currently oscillates around 6-7 percent a month ahead of the election. There are also the right-leaning groups Kukiz15 and Konfederacja, both currently polling at between 5% and 8 percent.   Although the ambience around the European elections is quite electrifying, they are still perceived mostly as a barometer before the parliamentary elections later this year. The parties will still have several months for reshuffles and new decisions on future coalitions before their major battle later this year.