How local elections in Poland serve as a wake up call for Tusk government

Tuesday, 16 April 2024

On 21 April, the second round of local elections is set to be held in Poland, which is to elect heads of municipalities, mayors and city presidents in places where no candidate obtained more than 50% of votes on 7 April.

The basic conclusion can be already drawn from the first round on 7 April. More precisely, the first round has shown more questions about Poland's political future than answers.

Read more in an article by Michał Kacewicz, a Belsat publicist and journalist – Hint of revenge: what problems local elections in Poland showed Tusk's government.

After the local elections in 2018, the Law and Justice party (PiS) held power in eight out of 16 voivodeships, and for some time even in nine. In the rest of the voivodeships, the Civic Coalition (KO) of the current Prime Minister Donald Tusk ruled.


Contrary to poor forecasts, in the 2024 elections, PiS won in seven voivodeships. Moreover, Jarosław Kaczyński's party received 34.3% of the votes nationwide, and KO – 30.6%.

And so, on the evening of 7 April, happy Kaczyński took to the stage, accompanied by fellow party members, and announced that PiS had defeated the Civic Coalition in the ninth election in a row.

The world was to hear: the Law and Justice party won. But there is one big "but."

According to the election results, in two voivodeships (Mazovian and Łódź), Jarosław Kaczyński's party, most likely, will not rule but will be in opposition, as the Civic Coalition and its potential partners will generally have many MPs.

Thus, PiS will rule in five voivodeships, namely in its "strongholds." This is less than in the 2018 elections, so it can be said that PiS suffered a defeat. However, it is not as significant if you look at local government elections as part of a long-term political process.

Following the local elections, the party has found its second wind and a feeling that not everything is lost yet. There is a certain starting point for rebuilding political authority.

It sounds odd because PiS seems to have had no particular expectations from the local elections and conducted a rather bland election campaign.

It has turned out though that it has a reliable and disciplined base electorate, and hopes for a return to power can be built on it. In Tusk's camp, such a prospect can cause the greatest concern.

Bloomberg wrote that "Tusk's coalition gains bittersweet win in Polish local elections."

The pleasant part, undoubtedly, was the good results in cities and the success of Tusk's favourites: Tchórzewski in Warsaw, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz in Gdańsk (she received 57%), Hanna Zdanowska in Łódź (59%).

On the other hand, the bitterness was added by the fact that the PiS position is not as weak as it was thought to be. Even more disappointing is realising that the electorate of the parties currently forming a liberal-leftist coalition is very cranky.

This is a wake up call for Donald Tusk.

Moreover, right after the elections, the leaders of small parties that are part of the government coalition (Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, the Polish People's Party, and Włodzimierz Czarzasty, New Left) began to accuse each other, stating that they could have achieved better results in the elections if not for their previous disloyalty and conflict over the issue of abortion liberalisation.

Immediately after the elections, a series of negotiations on the Council of Ministers will take place. This is extremely dangerous due to the conflict between the Left and the Third Way, but there is no choice. Without analysing the mistakes in these elections, the chances of winning the next ones become significantly smaller.

And soon a new election campaign to the European Parliament will begin. And then, the presidential campaign will start before the 2025 elections.

This is a period of political tension and a storm of emotions.

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