Polish ruling party's poll lead hit by EU spat

By bne IntelliNews March 20, 2017

The popularity of Poland’s ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) has fallen below 30% for the first time since mid-2014, a poll showed on March 20.

The survey, published by liberal newspaper Rzeczpospolita, was the first party poll carried out after PiS’ failed attempt at preventing the re-election of Donald tusk as the head of the European Council. PiS fielded its own candidate, only to see all other member states – including the UK that is leaving the bloc and Warsaw’s ally Hungary – support the former Polish PM.

PiS responded to the humiliation with angry rhetoric, claiming the vote was orchestrated by Germany. The party also vowed to adopt a hard line on the EU, reducing trust in the bloc and obstructing its policy. That has not, apparently, helped conceal how straightforward the defeat at the EU summit was, however.
 
While PiS remains the most popular party in Poland, according to the poll carried out by pollster IBRiS, it only earned 29% support. That represents a 5pp fall compared with a February poll by the same agency. Meanwhile, the oppostion Civic Platform (PO) - for which Tusk was PM for seven years until leaving for Brussels in 2014 - saw its support rise 10pp to 27%.

The result may also be reflective of overwhelming support – at some 80%, according to a CBOS poll from last year – declared by Poles for their country’s membership in the EU. 

Since joining the bloc in 2004, Poland has been the biggest beneficiary of the EU funds. Over 2mn Poles have also emigrated from their homeland to seek jobs in Western Europe, taking advantage of freedom of movement. 

The liberal Modern, and populist Kukiz’15 earned 10% support each in the poll, compared to 9% and 8% previously. Other parties were on the brink of the 5% threshold needed to win mandates in parliament. The agrarians from PSL polled at 6%, and the post-communist SLD 5%, the same as the young leftist party Together.

However, it will take more polls to confirm that support for PiS is on a downward trajectory. Excluding the IBRiS poll, the conservative nationalist party has consistently polled at well over 30%, often more than PO and Modern combined.

PiS won a straightforward majority in the Polish parliament in October 2015, winning over 37.5% of the vote. PO was second at just over 24%.

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