Elections in poland: the patriots clean up

The national conservative PiS party is celebrating a major success in the Polish elections. Their recipe: social welfare and a weak opposition.

Street procession on National Rosary Day in Warsaw, sponsored by the church and PiS, early October Photo: Attila Husejnow/imago images

Respect. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has once again made a big splash in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, winning more than 45 percent of the vote, surpassing its result from four years ago. But the explanation given by those who attribute this success primarily to what they see as the dullards in the outlying parts of the country is too cheap. The national conservatives also scored in the cities and among first-time voters.

The recipe for success of Jarosław Kaczynski and his followers is as simple as it is logical: They have delivered over the past four years. This is especially true in the social sphere, where the distribution of benefits, such as an expansion of child benefits, has noticeably improved the situation of many families.

In addition, the party has managed to cleverly link its patriotic narrative – and despite all the criticism of Brussels – with a location in the "heart of Europe." The emphasis on defending family and Christian values, accompanied by a demonization of sexual minorities in particular, has also apparently borne fruit.

Critical minds may condemn all this. But they must take note of the fact that for the majority of Poles, it apparently plays a minor role whether a governing party tries to bring the media into line or lays a hand on the foundations of the separation of powers.

Weakness of the opposition

The strength of the PiS correlates with the weakness of the opposition. The liberal-conservative Civic Coalition KO has not used its time out in opposition to reposition itself and formulate credible alternatives. The attempt to enthrone a new top candidate in Małgorzata Kidawa-Błonska before the end of September and thus to inject momentum into the election campaign also failed.

The exciting question now will be how the PiS will deal with its absolute majority. It may be tempted to continue the restructuring of the state in its favor. But that would mean accepting another confrontation with the European Union, which has already admonished Poland several times.

But whatever the PiS decides, there is one piece of good news: Once again, it was not enough for a two-thirds majority to completely overturn the constitution. This means that Kaczynski is blocked, at least for the time being, from following the path taken by Viktor Orban in Hungary.

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