The ruling Civic Platform party (PO) looks to have suffered a painful defeat in Poland's local elections on November 16. Despite an apparent turnaround in fortunes for the party recently, exit polls indicate the conservative populist Law and Justice (PiS) won comfortably, suggesting the national elections next year will be close fought.
With the economic recovery improving, PO had hoped to get a fresh wind under a new leader, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, after former premier Donald Tusk headed off to Brussels. Opinion polls indicated that the PO had halted a slide in popularity over the past couple of years that had handed the initiative to the conservative populist Law and Justice party (PiS).
However, the PiS won 31.5% of the vote, with PO trailing badly with just 27.3%, according to an exit poll by Ipsos, reports PAP. That is likely to hand the centre right party its first election defeat in seven years. Junior coalition partner, the Peasants Party, won a higher-than-expected 17% of the vote, according to the exit poll.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, who came in during the summer as Tusk moved to head the European Council, insisted PO would come back for next year's general election. "Just a few months ago the distance [to PiS] was much bigger," she said. "If these results are confirmed, they will show we have done a pretty good job."
Meanwhile the opposition PiS was jubilant. "We won," PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced. "That is, considering the circumstances, very good news. . . that creates prospects."
Tusk's victory in 2011 made the PO the first government since the fall of communism to retain office.
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