22/10/2007 - Results
Tradition was respected in Poland as every time since the fall of Communism – the party in power was beaten during the general and senatorial elections that took place on 21st October. The outgoing Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's party, Law and Justice (PiS) was easily beaten by the Civic Platform (PO) led by Donald Tusk who won 41.51% of the vote taking 209 of the 460 seats in the Sejm (Diet), the Lower Chamber of Parliament. The PiS won 32.11% of the vote (and 166 seats). Left and Democrats (LiD) took third position winning 13.15% (53 seats). The Social Democratic party is followed by the People's Party (PSL) led by Waldemar Pawlak, with 8.91% of the vote and 31 seats. The last seat goes to the German minority.
In addition to this Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland (Samobroona) and the League of the Republic's right wing – that rallies the League of Polish Families (LPR), the Right of the Republic of Poland (PR) and the Union of True Politics (UPR) will not be represented in Parliament since they did not rise above the 5% threshold of votes cast. The party led by Andrzej Lepper won 1.53% of the vote and the League of Polish Families led by Roman Giertych, 1.3%.
The Civic Platform does not hold an absolute majority (231 seats) but should not find it hard to form the next government; the People's Party (PSL) which Donald Tusk had already turned to during the electoral campaign, has already said that it would be prepared to work with the liberal party.
The Civic Platform also won in the Senatorial elections where it took 60 seats in comparison with 39 for the PiS. The last seat goes to an independent candidate, former Social Democratic Prime Minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.
The turnout rate was the highest since the fall of Communism rising to 55.3% (+14.73 points in comparison with the last general and senatorial elections on 25th September 2005). The high turnout rate surprised the Polish Electoral Commission that had to accept a three hour extension to voting in some areas of Warsaw since some stations ran out of ballot slips. "Participation rates were much higher than we forecast," stressed Lena Kolarkska-Bobinska, manager of the Public Affairs Institute who explained this phenomenon by the mobilisation of the youngest (18-24 year olds). "We are experiencing a generation revolution," she said.
"It was a fight. We won it. But from tomorrow on we must go back to work. Poland needs us," stressed Donald Tusk. "In difficult times, the Poles know how to take responsibility for their country," he maintained. The Civic Platform leader who chose to lead his party's list in this election in the capital, Warsaw and not in his native town of Gdansk where he had stood in every election since 1991 paid tribute to the high mobilisation rate of the Poles and promised national reconciliation. "It is not the victory of a party but that of a policy without conflict and aggression," he declared.
Outgoing Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski admitted defeat as soon as the first results were announced. "I wish Donald Tusk every success and congratulate him," he said adding "our road does not stop there however. We are going into the opposition and we shall be hard, demanding clarification with regard to all electoral promises."
"The Civic Platform succeeded in rallying to their name all of the voters who no longer wanted the Kaczynski brothers," stressed Lena Kolarska-Bobinska. "The PiS polarised the Polish political arena and pushed opponents into the arms of the party who had the greatest chances of winning through," she added. It seems that the televised debate on 15th October last between outgoing Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk heralded the turning point of the campaign. According to polls the latter easily won in this meeting and turned opinion in his favour with PO ahead of PiS in the polls again in the last week of the campaign. "Since you have been in government, two million Poles have chosen economic liberalism. Unfortunately not at home but in Ireland, England, Scotland, the USA, the Netherlands and Spain," he said to the Prime Minister denouncing price rises, notably amongst basic food products.
The Civic Platform, a centre-right party on the political scale but which has also convinced people on the left, should rapidly establish its programme for the liberalisation of the Polish economy by privatising some industries which are still dominated by the State. The party is in favour of more tax rebates and hopes to continue the reduction in unemployment rates and also the phasing out of low salaries which have prompted many Poles to emigrate to the UK or to Ireland. Finally the Civic Platform would like to make the euro its economic priority and has set the objective of 2012 for the introduction of the single currency into Poland. MP and economist Zbigniew Chlebowski (PO) maintained that Poland might adopt the euro in 2012-2013 at the earliest. "2012-2013 represent the earliest possible date. It is not the most important issue perhaps but it is one of our priorities," he stressed adding that the 2008 budget would have to be revised and "that an independent expert" should lead the Finance Ministry.
Another change in tone came from one of the PO Vice-Presidents, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, an MEP who said that the next government would adopt the Fundamental Rights Charter included in the new European treaty which had been refused by the Kaczynski brothers.
The Civic Platform's victory seems to have come after a clear rejection of the Kaczynski brothers, leaders of the country since September 2005, rather than Polish enthusiasm for liberalism. Many are happy that things "will return to normal" in Poland both on a domestic and foreign level, in its relations with Germany, Russia and even its partners within the European Union.
The next Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, will however have to co-habit with President Lech Kaczynski who beat him in the Presidential election on 9th and 23rd October 2005. Although the presidential function is officially an honorary one in Poland the Head of State does however enjoy significant influence; indeed he has a right to veto which the Diet can only reject if it rallies the majority of 3/5 of the votes and the attendance of at least half of the MPs. Lech Kaczynski has warned several times that he will not hesitate in using his right to veto if the opposition came to power.
Results of the General and Senatorial Elections in Poland on 21st October 2007
Polish version of the text available in PDF