Prime Minister Tusk’s centrists edge out PiS and surging far-right in EP election

Prime Minister Tusk’s centrists edge out PiS and surging far-right in EP election
Poland Prime Minister Donald Tusk encouraging people to vote in the EU election at a rally in Warsaw on June 4. / Donald Tusk's social media
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw June 10, 2024

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk's centre-right Civic Coalition (KO) managed to beat the radical right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) in the European election on June 9, according to a late poll.

The result marks the first defeat of PiS by their arch-rivals in as many as 10 elections. But the margin of KO’s success was tiny and the overall result was marred by an excellent showing by the far-right anti-EU Konfederacja, while Tusk’s coalition partners, the conservative Third Way and the Left, fared badly.

“Jesus, I’m so glad,” Tusk tweeted –  citing a popular Polish rock song – as early results came in on the election night. 

Winning the election – even if by a tiny margin – may give Tusk and his party a new momentum after the first six months in power proved somewhat disappointing, with attention already switching to next year’s presidential election.

KO won 37.1% of the vote, winning 20 of Poland’s 53 seats in the European Parliament, the late poll – a mix of polling the voters and available official results – showed. PiS came in at a very close second with 36.2%, which gave them 20 seats as well.

The far-right Konfederacja celebrated success after winning 12.1% and six seats in the European Parliament.

The clear losers were Tusk’s coalition partners. The Third Way only won 6.9% of the vote and three seats. The Left won 6.3% and also three seats.

The turnout in the election was a lowly 40% compared to 74.4% in last October’s general election.

In Strasbourg, KO will be part of the biggest bloc, the European People’s Party (EPP), in a parliament that tilted to the far-right but where the mainstream – the EPP, the Social Democrats, the centrist Renew Europe and the Greens – could still form a relatively well-working majority.

In Poland, however, KO’s coalition partners will view the results with concern, as Tusk’s power relative to them has now grown substantially. Tusk’s modus operandi in politics has long been to work with willing coalition partners – but also to devour them when an opportunity arrived.

Especially the Third Way has a lot to worry about as one of its leaders, the current parliament Speaker, Szymon Holownia, has long nurtured ambitions to win the presidential race in 2025. Those ambitions have now suffered a substantial setback.

Tusk took a diplomatic swipe at the Third Way and Left on the election night.

“I will not use our clearly better results in a way that is unpleasant for my partners. But I hope they learned a lesson: people do not want a compromise with evil. People do not want this 'I don't know, maybe yes, maybe no' attitude,” Tusk told reporters, referring to his crusade to hold PiS accountable for their eight years in power.