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Polish parliamentary election 2023 - Who wins and what it brings to Ukraine

Polish parliamentary election 2023 - Who wins and what it brings to Ukraine Leader of Civic Platform and probable future Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk (photo: Getty Images)

The Polish ruling party Law and Justice secured first place in yesterday's parliamentary election. However, it is likely that, for the first time since 2015, they will have to transfer power to the opposition.

More details on the outcome of the Polish election and who will form the new coalition in the RBC-Ukraine report.

The intrigue in the Polish Sejm (lower house of the parliament) election continues even after the voting has taken place. Currently, results have been counted from 53% of the polling stations. The ruling party Law and Justice is leading with 38.2% of the votes, and the main opposition force, the Civic Coalition, is in second place with 28% of the votes. As the vote count progresses, the gap between them is narrowing. While Law and Justice will likely retain the first position, power in Poland will shift to the opposition.

Poles' votes

According to updated exit poll data, Law and Justice is getting 36.6% of the votes, the Civic Coalition - 31%, the Third Way - 13.5%, the left-wing coalition - 8.6%, the Confederation - 6.4%, and the rest of the parties fail to pass the electoral threshold.

Current vote count data show a significant lead for Law and Justice over the opposition, especially due to the counting of votes in smaller rural precincts where Law and Justice traditionally enjoys greater popularity. As the count progresses in larger precincts in Warsaw and other major cities, the results for Law and Justice are expected to worsen, while the Civic Coalition is likely to gain ground.

The election results have been significantly influenced by the strong performance of the Third Way. Many doubted that they would be able to pass the 8% electoral threshold, but the party exceeded all expectations.

The left-wing coalition performed as expected, with a slight decrease in representation in parliament compared to the previous term. However, the far-right Confederation, the only openly anti-Ukrainian political force in the Polish election, performed worse than many forecasts. During the campaign, their rating reached as high as 15%, but in the end, it only narrowly passed the electoral threshold.

Voter turnout in the elections reached 73%, the highest since the fall of the communist regime in Poland. It is evident that political agitation and high emotional intensity played a role, as politicians from various sides referred to the current voting as "decisive for Poland's fate" and "the most important since the late 1980s."

Mobilization efforts through a parallel referendum held by the ruling party did not succeed, with only about 40% turnout. Most voters responded to the opposition's call and refrained from participating in the referendum, thus rendering it non-binding.

Coalition and future prime minister

The vote count is ongoing, but it is clear that Law and Justice will not be able to secure an outright majority in the Sejm and maintain a monopoly on power. Nevertheless, party leaders are expressing optimism publicly, calling the election results a success and expecting to become the foundation of the next coalition, even considering the possibility of relinquishing the prime minister's seat to potential coalition partners.

Such a partner is referred to as the Third Way coalition, not the Confederation, which failed in the elections, and the Polish Peasants' Party is a part of it. However, the Polish Peasants' Party rejects such proposals from Law and Justice, in a mocking manner.

The Civic Coalition is considered the most likely partner for Law and Justice in forming a coalition, along with the Third Way and the left-wing parties, although the latter may not provide a large margin of votes. In this case, the prime minister would likely be Donald Tusk, the leader of the Civic Coalition, who previously held the position from 2007 to 2014.

However, the process of power transfer may be somewhat prolonged. The Polish President, Andrzej Duda, may choose to assign the task of forming a coalition to Law and Justice as the party that secured the first place in the elections. Only after Law and Justice fails to form a coalition would the mandate pass to the Civic Coalition and its allies.

Overall, the results of the Polish elections appear satisfactory for Ukraine at this point. The worst-case scenario of a coalition between Law and Justice and the Confederation has been largely avoided. In a coalition of the Civic Coalition, the Third Way, and the left-wing parties, all political forces declare fairly pro-Ukrainian positions. Unlike many European countries, even the Polish left does not have sympathies for the Kremlin.

Nevertheless, it should not be expected that relations between Kyiv and Warsaw will be trouble-free after the change of power. At the very least, the issue of grain will be a point of contention, as the leader of the Polish farmers, Michal Kolodziejczak, is entering the Sejm as a representative of the Civic Coalition, and it is also a priority for the Polish Peasants' Party, an expected member of the new coalition.