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Oct 17, 2023, 8:20am EDT
Europe
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Poland’s opposition coalition on cusp of ousting the ruling party

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
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Poland’s opposition coalition has secured enough seats to oust the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party after Sunday’s election.

The pro-European Union coalition, led by former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, hopes to walk back some of the illiberal policies enacted by PiS during its eight years of rule — but may face an uphill battle.

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Much of the three-party coalition’s success came from offering voters choices among themselves during the election campaign, rather than just presenting as a united anti-PiS bloc, Daniel Tilles argues in Notes from Poland. “Each of the three blocs conducted its own, separate campaign, yet they also largely avoided attacking one another and made clear that they would be willing to form a coalition government,” Tilles wrote. Their different views held a wide appeal, he adds, saying the opposition’s center-right Third Way party, for instance, managed to bring some disillusioned former PiS voters on board.

Outgoing Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński “woke up a giant” in Tusk, Polish-language newspaper Rzeczpospolita noted Monday. The country saw a historic turnout for the election, which was characterized throughout the campaign period as the most important since the collapse of communism in 1989. Kaczyński “hoped that maximum polarization, that basing the electoral strategy on the campaign of insulting Tusk and the Civic Platform, would lead to a final clash of the two camps. But he miscalculated,” the paper noted.

Tusk faces an uphill battle against the illiberal policy shifts enacted by PiS. Over nearly a decade the government has stacked many Polish institutions with its loyalists, Andrew Higgins writes in The New York Times. The question facing Tusk now is how he might be able to bring those institutions back to liberalism. Most pressing is whether the coalition will be able to form a government without a fight: Experts are warning that a “nightmare scenario” may include the nation facing something of a constitutional crisis if President Andrzej Duda refuses to ask the coalition to form government.

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