Polish Opposition Wins

The chief opposition party has won a plurality in Poland’s parliamentary elections but is apparently short of an outright victory.

Voters appeared to have ousted the prime minister, one half of Poland’s wonder-twin team, in parliamentary elections on Sunday. The challenger, Donald Tusk, declared victory for his pro-business party, Civic Platform. The prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, conceded defeat as two major exit polls showed his Law and Justice Party trailing Civic Platform by double-digit margins. His brother, Lech, will remain president and retain veto power over the presumptive new government’s legislation.

Official results are not expected until Tuesday. They could determine whether Civic Platform achieves an outright majority or, as is more likely, needs to form a coalition with the centrist Polish Peasants Party. Though the results were still unofficial, Mr. Kaczynski congratulated his opponent after what appeared to be a significant defeat. “It was a battle,” Mr. Tusk told supporters gathered here Sunday night. “We won it. But tomorrow we need to get down to work.”

Surveys showed that this election had the highest rate of voter participation since the fall of Communism in 1989. Some polling stations ran out of ballots, which kept several open up to three hours later than scheduled.

Leaders across Europe were likely to be relieved at the ascension of Civic Platform, a pro-Europe party. Under the Kaczynskis, Poland has earned a reputation as a consensus-breaking troublemaker.

On the other hand, the Kaczynskis have been the staunchest of allies of the United States. Mr. Tusk said during the campaign that he would have driven a harder bargain over support of plans to place missile interceptors on Polish soil and that, if elected, he would try to bring home the 900 Polish troops in Iraq.

The “pro-Europe” and “pro-America” memes are ultimately misplaced. The interests of the United States and Europe alike are served by a functional Poland that is a strong leader within the former Communist bloc as its members struggle with the transition to democratic governance and market-oriented economies.

Matthew Shugart and Steven Taylor have some background on Polish institutions and recent political history, respectively.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    From what I got by watching the BBC, the main issues in the election seemed to be 1) the Kaczynski brothers’ ongoing vendetta against communist era officials and 2) Polish participation in the multinational force in Iraq. The results would suggest a No to the continuation of both.