Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), slightly improved its result in local election, a late exit poll showed on October 22, but official results are still to determine whether the party will increase control over regional parliaments.
Who will govern regions is the key outcome of local elections in Poland and a prognosis – rough as it may be – for the general election next year. Regional governments are responsible for disbursement of billions of euros of EU money for infrastructure and other development projects that many areas in Poland still lack.
PiS won 33% of the vote, adding 0.7pp to the early exit poll result published last night right after polling stations closed across Poland. The main opposition group, the Civic Coalition (KO) – a combo of liberal parties Civic Platform and Modern – was runner-up with 26.7%, 2pp more than showed previously.
Perhaps crucial to the future arrangement of 16 regional assemblies will be the agrarian party PSL's result dropping 3pp to 13.6%.
In theory, PSL is well positioned to form regional governments with KO, while PiS could seek a coalition partner in Kukiz 15, which won 5.9% of the vote according to the late exit poll, down 0.4pp against the previous estimate.
With PSL’s result fading, however, the party might not provide enough of a boost to KO in order to form majorities in the regions.
The centre-left SLD scooped 6.6%, gaining 0.9%. A group of independent candidates running under an umbrella heading of Non-party Local Government won 5.8%, down 0.5pp versus earlier estimates. Other parties did not win more than 1.5% of the vote.
PiS and KO both claimed success. At 33%, PiS achieved the best result in the history of its local election campaigns. The liberals, in turn, improved only by 0.4pp.
“Our result bodes well for the future, especially the general election,” said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, PiS’ chairman and the informal top decision-maker in Poland.
“A new campaign has just started that will end in May 2020,” Kaczynski added.
However, the political outcome of the election might differ from what the figures are currently suggesting, mostly because KO stands a chance of locking PiS out of power in the regions. The final results for regional assemblies are calculated separately in each of Poland’s 16 regions and are expected by October 23.
PiS was also embarrassed in Warsaw, failing to take the prestigious mayoral election to run-off after KO’s candidate Rafal Trzaskowski defeated rival PiS’ Patryk Jaki 54.1% to 30.9% to win in the first round.
Of the mayoral races in Poland’s 10 biggest cities, a PiS-supported candidate only managed to win in Katowice. The ruling party’s candidates made it to the run-off on November 4 in Gdańsk – where Jaroslaw Walesa, the son of legendary Lech Walesa, only came in third – as well as in Kraków. They are unlikely to win the run-offs, however.
The local election was the first in a series, with the European election scheduled for May 2019, followed by the general vote in autumn of the same year and the presidential election in May 2020.