Poland’s lawmakers have approved a controversial electoral law that critics say will give the ruling party influence over the voting procedure and will allow more room for vote rigging. The lower house voted late Wednesday to approve the legislation that will govern elections, beginning with local elections this fall. It was proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party and is seen as favoring it. The party took power after winning elections in 2015 and immediately set about changing much of Poland’s laws, including those governing the justice system. The changes in the judiciary have drawn strong criticism from European Union leaders who say they threaten Poland’s rule of law, and have opened a procedure that could strip the nation of its EU voting rights. The new electoral law is expected to add to Poland’s conflict with its EU partners.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Poland.
Changes to an electoral law proposed by Poland’s conservative ruling party are aimed at helping it win local elections next year, opposition leaders said Tuesday. The head of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Poland’s most powerful politician, says he wants new regulations to limit to two the number of terms served by city and town mayors as well as local community heads. He argues it would give opportunities to new candidates and says some local leaders have been in office for decades. “That helps neither democracy nor the good social relations in the given country or town,” Kaczynski has said. “In brief — there is need for change.” But the leaders of two liberal opposition parties said the proposal aims to help Law and Justice take control of local governments, on top of controlling the parliament, the national government and the presidency.
Poland’s incoming ruling party is expected to be a more difficult partner for European governments, particularly on the migrant crisis, after voters in parliamentary elections gave it a strong mandate to stand up to Brussels and Berlin. The opposition Law and Justice party swept to victory with nearly 38% of the vote and looked likely Monday to have enough legislators in the lower house of Parliament to govern on its own, after promising to spend more on welfare, focus on traditional Catholic values and take a more-assertive stance within the European Union. The election on Sunday ended the eight-year rule of the Civic Platform party and its junior ally, a period marked by uninterrupted economic growth and good relations with Germany, but marred by internal struggles and scandals.
Poland consolidated its rightwing shift on Sunday as exit polls showed voters had handed an absolute majority in its parliamentary election to Law and Justice, a Eurosceptic party that is against immigration, wants family-focused welfare spending and has threatened to ban abortion and in-vitro fertilisation. The current ruling party, Civic Platform, conceded defeat following the first exit poll, published by Ipsos moments after polling stations closed at 9pm (8pm GMT), which gave the national conservative Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice party) 39.1% of the vote, putting it far ahead of Civic Platform on 23.4%. Jarosław Kaczyński, Law and Justice’s chairman and the twin brother of Poland’s late president Lech, immediately declared victory. Speaking to supporters at his party headquarters in central Warsaw, a triumphant Kaczynski said: “We will not kick those who have fallen… We need to show that Polish public life can be different.”
Jezowe, a five-hour bus ride from Warsaw, is officially designated an agricultural village. But it is one where the agriculture now tends to take place elsewhere. Jezowe’s fields lie mostly fallow; its workers now seek higher-paid jobs in wealthier European Union countries, harvesting grapes in France and cabbages in Germany. Among the village’s weathered wooden houses stand gaudy villas, paid for with euros earned abroad. “Disneyland,” says one resident, pointing to the turrets and gilded fences. The town’s public buildings, too, have been spruced up, mainly with injections of EU cash. A grant of 525,000 zloty ($140,000) paid for the renovation of the old parsonage, which now houses a museum devoted to carved figurines of Christ. In short, Jezowe has done well by the EU. Yet the village has long backed the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), a mildly Eurosceptic and socially conservative party that has been in opposition since 2007. The PiS candidate for president, Andrzej Duda, took a startling 92% of the vote here in an election in May; nationwide, he won with a more modest 52%.
Poland’s general election on Sunday may propel a new nationalist-minded government into European politics, deepening divisions over the migration crisis and straining relations with Berlin, Brussels and Moscow. The Eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS), led by former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has toned down its anti-EU rhetoric since its first time in power in 2005-07, but diplomats in Brussels are worried that EU decision-making may soon be obstructed by a returning member of the awkward squad. The staunchly conservative Kaczynski has nominated a less combative politician, Beata Szydlo, to be prime minister to lure disgruntled voters of the outgoing pro-European government. But his deep distrust of big European powers, particularly Germany, remains intact and analysts say he is still expected to pull the strings.
Poland: Voter turnout for the government-backed referendum on voting system was less than 8% | Wall Street Journal
Poland’s ruling camp, struggling to capture voters’ attention ahead of a parliamentary election in October, suffered an embarrassment on Monday when the country’s electoral committee said voter turnout in a government-backed referendum over the weekend was less than 8%. It was the lowest turnout for any national vote in Poland’s recent history. The referendum was called by former President Bronislaw Komorowski as he tried to salvage his re-election bid in May. It was endorsed by the upper house of parliament, dominated by senators of Mr. Komorowski’s Civic Platform party. The referendum, which cost about $22 million to organize and yet failed to settle any of the key questions raised by politicians, is a blunder in a country where voters have shown fatigue not only with the eight-year-old ruling camp but also the long-established political parties that have governed the country since 1989.
The leader of Poland’s conservative opposition on Saturday ruled himself out of the running for prime minister in this year’s parliamentary election, and instead nominated a female lawmaker who is considered less divisive. After more than two decades at the forefront of Polish politics, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he wouldn’t put himself at the center of this year’s campaign, and instead threw his support behind Beata Szydlo. Ms. Szydlo is widely credited with softening the conservative party’s image and, as campaign chief, helping Andrzej Duda secure a five-year term in May’s presidential election.
Polish voters have sent a strong signal that they are unhappy with the country’s direction, apparently unseating the president despite years of fast economic growth and unprecedented stability. According to an exit poll, challenger Andrzej Duda, a rightwing member of the European parliament, won the presidential election on Sunday with 52% of the vote to 48% for the incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski. Official results are expected late on Monday. If Duda’s win is confirmed, it could herald a political shift in the European Union’s sixth largest economy, a nation that has been able to punch above its weight in Europe without belonging to the 19-nation eurozone. Poland’s influence is underlined by the fact that one of its own, Donald Tusk, now heads the European Council in Brussels. The changing political mood could signal a return to power of Duda’s conservative Law and Justice party in parliamentary elections this autumn. That would cement Poland’s turn to the right, create a new dynamic with other European countries and possibly usher in a less welcoming climate for foreign investors.
Poland’s presidential election was supposed to be a cakewalk for popular incumbent Bronisław Komorowski. But instead of coasting to an easy victory, the president finds himself in danger of a stunning defeat in Sunday’s runoff election. Surprising pollsters and his own campaign team, Komorowski lost in the May 10 first round to Andrzej Duda, the candidate of the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), who took 33.8 percent of the vote, a percentage point ahead of the incumbent.