Poland’s eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS) was on course to unseat the ruling Civic Platform (PO) after eight years in power, an exit poll showed late yesterday, a result that could set the country at odds with some of its European allies.
Run by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of Poland’s late president Lech, PiS secured 39.1 per cent of the vote, well ahead of the centrist, staunchly pro-European Union PO on 23.4 per cent, said pollster Ipsos.
A triumphant Kaczynski immediately declared victory. Such a score would give PiS 242 seats in the 460-member lower house of parliament, the exit poll showed, allowing the party to govern alone without the need for a coalition partner.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz of PO swiftly conceded defeat.
Poland has seen its economy, the largest in ex-communist central Europe, expand by nearly 50 per cent in the last decade. But PiS was able to tap into widespread anger that the fruits of growth have not been evenly shared among the country’s 38 million people. Distrustful of the EU and an advocate of a strong Nato stance in dealing with Moscow, the party opposes joining the Eurozone any time soon, promises more welfare spending on the poor and wants banks subject to new taxation.
Distrustful of EU and an advocate of a strong Nato stance in dealing with Moscow
PiS has opposed relocating migrants from the Middle East to Poland, arguing they could threaten Poland’s Catholic way of life. Mr Kaczynski raised eyebrows this month by warning they could bring disease and parasites with them.
On the campaign trail, Mr Kaczynski and other PiS leaders sought to tap into anger that the economic success is not more evenly shared out and into nationalist sentiment fanned by immigration fears, particularly among young voters.
“There is a broader phenomenon of a return to national, religious, community values being seen all across Europe,” said analyst Aleksander Smolar.
“PiS uses clear... language in this respect.”
PiS advocates a robust Western approach towards Russia, especially following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Poland’s eastern neighbour Ukraine.