Poland’s European Coalition, a grouping of several opposition parties led by the former government party, Civic Platform, moved clearly ahead of the incumbent Law and Justice (PiS) in a poll published on May 17, nine days before the vote to the European Parliament.
PiS and opposition alike treat the European vote as test battleground before the all-important national election taking place this autumn. Both sides are hoping to win next week and carry the momentum onwards to the general vote that will determine Poland’s course for the next four years.
The poll, carried out by the Institute for Research into Public Affairs (IBSP) for Newsweek and Radio Zet, has the European Coalition at 43.6% of the vote, a whooping 10.5pp ahead of PiS at 32.9%.
Other parties, including the centre-left Wiosna (Spring) and the far-right Konfederacja, polled at single-digit numbers.
The poll was the first survey of Poles’ political preferences after a documentary film on sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy came out and went viral with over 20mn views on YouTube.
The film’s popularity forced all political players to take a position on paedophilia cases in Poland’s Catholic Church and the fact that at least some high-ranked members of the Episcopate helped cover them up.
PiS’ close links to the Catholic Church had the party somewhat at a loss how to react to the public outrage the film has caused without alienating the powerful clergy just weeks before the election.
PiS’ responded with a rushed reform of the penal code, increasing jail terms for paedophilia, much to the outcry of legal experts who derided both the haste with which changes were passed as well as their inefficiency in tackling sexual abuse of minors.
However, the ruling party has not acted in particular cases of sexual abuse exposed by the film; neither did the authorities bother any of the bishops whom the film accused of cover-ups.
The government’s pussyfooting stood in stark contrast to defending an earlier police action in which a woman was detained for putting up posters with Black Madonna of Czestochowa – a revered religious symbol in Poland – with rainbow halo, a reference to the LGBT movement.
That put opposition in a comfortable situation, lashing out against PiS for siding with perpetrators rather than victims of abuse and possibly fuelled the European Coalition’s rise in the IBSP poll.
The size of the gap between the European Coalition and PiS is, however, so much at odds with nearly all previous polls, which put PiS ahead - albeit typically at a small margin - that some criticized the poll’s veracity.
Doubts regarding pollsters’ ability to accurately gauge support for political parties are a longtime concern in Poland.
A poll by Kantar, published on the same day as IBSP’s, put PiS ahead of the European Coalition by 43% to 28%, for example.
Two other polls, published on May 18-19, also indicated PiS as favourite to win the European vote, although by a small margin of 1.6pp-1.8pp.
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