Providing a welcome escape from a chilly autumn evening, the warm tone of the evening was set by the decisive and jubilant victory for opposition parties in Poland’s parliamentary elections. Liberties was joined by rule of law expert Dr. Maria Skóra of Institut für Europäische Politik.
Described by Donald Tusk as the most important election since 1989 when Communism fell, it was perhaps this momentousness that saw many first-time voters make their way to the polling station. The participation of a record-breaking number of young people and the higher turnout amongst women is said to have been a decisive factor in the success of Civic Coalition, Third Way and Left, who are expected to form a coalition, ousting the Law & Justice party (PiS).
For many in Polish society, the prospect of a new government will be a welcome respite after a brutal and contentious campaign, which saw candidates target one another with personal barbs and laid bare the heightened division within Polish society. The opposition’s win is even more commendable, owing to breaches of electoral integrity by the incumbent PiS. Describing the election as free, but not fair, Maria points to the demonstrable bias of public broadcasters or PiS promoting their own candidates at family picnics financed by public funds.
Two Visions of Poland
According to Maria, both political camps ran their campaigns on ideological grounds. PiS’s leader Jarosław Kaczyński promised to strengthen Poland’s identity as a nation founded on traditional values, while Tusk promised to bring radical change and restore democracy.
While Poland’s national interests will remain the same, the Polish electorate has voted for a quality change. Assuming the opposition will successfully form a viable coalition in the coming months, we can expect Poland to resume constructive dialogue with its neighbouring countries and return to friendly relations with the EU.
However, Tusk’s intention to de-Orbanize Poland will be a mammoth task. Hitting the refresh butting on Poland’s public media will be relatively straightforward however, there is no clear roadmap to unpick the legal quagmire surrounding the judicial system and captured state institutions. This legislative inflation, stemming from the illiberal mechanisms created by the previous ruling party, which become rooted and prevent systems from running smoothly, has left the institutions which uphold the rule of law in disarray.
While the road to restoring democratic values is long, Poland has taken its first and unequivocal step in the right direction.
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