Poland's PiS on track for majority after historic win

By bne IntelliNews October 25, 2015

Wojciech Kość in Warsaw -

 

Poland’s conservative and eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS) looked to have secured just enough seats to form a majority government on its own, after a late poll showed it won 37.7% of the votes in the Polish parliamentary election on October 25. The result would translate into 232 seats in the 460-seat lower house of the parliament, the Sejm.

Prior to the election, analysts argued that a single-party PiS government would be more favourable than a potentially unstable coalition with anti-establishment Kukiz’15 or Korwin – the parties tipped most likely to team up with PiS should it not win a majority. 

PiS’ chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on the election night on October 25 he would seek to “extend our hand to all those who want a good change, who want to change in Poland,” Kaczynski said. Kukiz’15 was likely target of the offer.

Kukiz’15 and Korwin won 8.7% and 4.9% of the votes, respectively. For the Korwin party, this would mean they have not passed the 5% threshold needed for a party to win any seats, although the gap is small enough to be closed after votes are counted.

Despite concerns that a PiS-only government would lead Poland off track, the markets have appeared to come to terms with a PiS-only government for some time now.

Some analysts have suggested that the party has learnt from its short tenure in 2005-07 and will moderate its policies, though its election promises do not give much hope. PiS’ flagship proposals in the campaign included reduction of the retirement age, taxes to be levied on banks and large retail chains, and considerable increases in social expenditures, such as generous child benefit.

"My post-election policy view [is] most big ticket economic policy ideas will not be implemented, and the rest will be watered down," PKO BP's chief economist Radoslaw Bodys told bne IntelliNews shortly before the election. "The retirement age is unlikely to be reduced and the mega child benefit hike is unlikely to happen, but the banking and retail taxes are likely to ‎be implemented," he added.

Unlike in the case of a coalition with hardly predictable Kukiz’15 or Korwin, the stability of a PiS-led government could be a plus, suggest others, but may come at a cost.

“An outright majority for PiS would inevitably bring a more stable government and a smoother decision-making process,” analysts at RBS note. However, unlike Bodys, they note “an outright majority should in fact make it harder for PiS to back down on its election promises.”

During the first minutes after the results of the exit polls were announced, PiS’ chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski struck a conciliatory note. 

“I would like to emphasise: there will be no revenge, no personal games, no kicking those who fell,” he added in a hardly convoluted reference to the losing Civic Platform, which has given up power after an eight-year rule.

Civic Platform (PO) came in at second position with 23.6%, well behind PiS, and will now be the biggest opposition party. PiS succeeded in painting its rule as a failure, despite macroeconomic factors having improved considerably.

Apart from PiS’ winning majority, the other big change in the parliament will be that it will be the first parliament in democratic Poland not to feature a leftist party. A coalition of Social Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Your Movement (TR) and the Green Party only managed to win 7.5% of the vote, below the 8% threshold required for coalitions. On the other hand, a young leftist party Razem (Together) surprisingly won 3.9%, giving it access to budget financing and making it potentially a new leftist force on the rise, at the expense of the fading old-timers from SLD.

PO’s coalition partner during the last eight years, the agrarian party PSL, won 5.2% and will not be certain of winning seats in the Sejm until official results are released.

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