Poland election: first exit poll shows opposition coalition possible – follow live | Poland
Reader weighs in
Poles living abroad experienced very long lines as they voted earlier today.
A reader in London writes that they waited with their Polish partner for about an hour and a half “with lines of hundreds of people stretching down the road.”
An exit poll in Poland’s parliamentary election suggested the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had won the most votes but, if it turns out to be accurate, appeared to show a possible route to government for a combined opposition coalition led by former prime minister and European Council president Donald Tusk.
However, an exit poll inappeared to show a victory for a progressive coalition, only for the actual results to be strikingly different. It will be later in the night on Sunday, and perhaps well into Monday when the final results become available.
The exit poll put PiS on 36.8% and Tusk’s Civic Coalition on 31.6%. However, two groups that could form a coalition with Tusk also did well, with 13% for the centre-right Third Way and 8.6% for the left-wing Lewica.
Such a result would mean that the three combined parties would probably have the majority of mandates in Poland’s 460-seat parliament. In a further piece of potential good news for Poland’s progressives, the exit poll puttipped to get about 9% of the vote, on 6.2%, lower than pre-election polls had estimated their support to be.
Jarosław Kaczyński, the PiS chairman, said his party’s result was a big success but admitted “we don’t know” whether the party had a path to government. “Days of fight and tension await us,” he told supporters just after the exit poll was released. If PiS is indeed the biggest party, it has the right to have the first attempt at forming a coalition.
“Whether we are in power or in the opposition, we will continue implementing our project and will not allow Poland to be betrayed,” he said.
It’s a bad night for Poland’s far-right Konfederacja, which according to the exit poll got merely 6.2%.
Sławomir Mentzen, one of its leaders, told supporters this evening that he will think about what conclusions to draw from this, Gazeta Wyborcza.
Photo from this evening as opposition supporters celebrate exit poll data.
At the Civic Coalition headquarters, at Warsaw’s Ethnographical Museum, Donald Tusk has appeared on stage just minutes after voting had finished to declare victory.
“It’s the end of the evil times, it’s the end of the PiS rule, we made it, he said, to cheers from assembled supporters.
“We won democracy, we won freedom, we won our free beloved Poland … This day will be remembered in history as a bright day, the rebirth of Poland,” he said.
The exit poll indeed seems to show a route for the joint opposition to form a coalition and no route for PiS, but exit polls can be wrong, as the vote in Slovakia earlier this month showed.
Polls have closed in Poland.
Anby Ipsos for TVN24.pl shows:
Law and Justice (PiS): 36.8%
Civic Coalition (KO): 31.6%
Third Way: 13%
The Left (Lewica): 8.6%
According to the exit poll, Law and Justice would take 200 seats, Civic Coalition 163 seats, Third Way 55 seats and The Left 30 seats, meaning that an opposition government coalition could be possible.
Eyes on smaller groups
The final outcome could depend on how well three smaller groupings do. The leftwing Lewica and centre-right Third Way are expected to form a coalition with Tusk’s Civic Coalition if between them they can muster the 231 seats required to claim a majority in the lower house of parliament.
“As a woman, I don’t feel that for the past eight years there was anyone in parliament who represented me, and I hope this will now change,” said 32-year-old Marta, who had voted for Lewica in Warsaw.
Confederation, a far-right coalition tipped to get about 9% of the vote, is a wild card. It has ruled out formal coalitions but may end up as the kingmaker.
Read the full story here.
While some observers say they fear a victory of the ruling Law and Justice party would mean a further deterioration of democratic norms in Poland, some experts say that another term for the current government would not necessarily lead to a big shift from the status quo.
Stanley Bill, a professor at the University of Cambridge, said that if Law and Justice remains in power “they’re going to be in a significantly weaker position than they were before”.
He added: “All of the institutional structures – both internal and external – and social reality internally in Poland that have effectively prevented PiS from achieving the same radical success as Fidesz has managed to achieve in Hungary: they will all still be there.”
He pointed to “European institutions, the alliance with the United States, the still diverse media sector” as well as “the strength of support for the opposition parties, which is much higher in Poland, the activeness of Polish civil society”.
“All of those elements that have prevented PiS from going as far as it might otherwise have done in degrading Poland’s democracy will still be there and PiS’s own political position will be significantly weaker.”
Edit Zgut-Przybylska, an adjunct professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences, said that in her view the stakes in today’s election are whether Poland reverses its “democratic backsliding” or “follows Hungary into the club of electoral autocracies”.
“This might be the very last moment to restore the Polish rule of law,” she said, adding:
The country plays a critical geopolitical role in an acute existential crisis posed by Russia. If PiS [Law and Justice] stays in power and completes the authoritarian remaking, the EU might set a blind eye in order to keep Poland on board with helping Ukraine. That would have a detrimental impact not only on Poland but on the democratic design of the EU as a whole.
Turnout has been very high in today’s election, with long lines at polling stations.
At 5pm, turnout was at 57.54%, according to.
More than 100 monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are monitoring the vote, Douglas Wake, the head of the mission, told me outside a Warsaw polling station this morning. The mission will give its preliminary assessment of the vote at a press conference tomorrow afternoon.
In previous elections under PiS rule, the monitoring group has said the vote was largely free of violations on the day, but it has flagged longer-term problems in the political and media climate, such as the fact that public television has a clear bias in favour of PiS.
There are also tens of thousands of Polish volunteers who have signed up to monitor the vote at polling stations.
What is at stake in Poland’s election?
We asked Wojciech Sadurski, a professor at the University of Sydney who specialises in constitutionalism of Central Europe.
The ruling Law and Justice party’s Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s deputy prime minister, has according to Sadurski followed the “authoritarian script” of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.
The academic pointed to the ruling party’s “capturing the constitutional court and the supreme court, subjecting regular judges of lower instances to the political will – with mixed success, one must add – turning public media into a vulgar propaganda machine, subjecting many (not all, not yet) commercial media to party control” and “setting up a network of rightwing NGOs as a sort of alternative civil society”.
What is at stake with today’s election, the professor said, are “individual, independent judges and a handful of independent public prosecutors” as well as “those few remaining independent commercial media, such as TVN or Gazeta Wyborcza daily” and “powers of local self-government”. He also said the office of ombudsman, academic freedoms and critical NGOs are at risk.
“There may not be another chance,” Sadurski warned, “for a peaceful and civil transition the fourth time round.”
I ran into Igor Tuleya, a judge who has been strongly critical of PiS judicial policies, outside a Warsaw polling station this morning and asked him for his thoughts on the vote.
Tuleya, who was suspended from work for more than two years and has led a campaign against PiS’s attack on the judiciary, said he thought the elections were as important as the vote in 1989 which marked the beginning of the end of the communist era in the country.
“I am sure that if this government stays in power they will continue their path and the rule of law will be destroyed in Poland,” he said.
Tuleya also said he was worried about potential attempts to discredit the results or interfere in the process in the event of a PiS defeat. Electoral results are ratified by the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs, created by the PiS government.
Laurent Pech, a law professor,on Twitter that the chamber “entirely consists of unlawfully appointed individuals”.
Here are some photos from Poland’s election day.
Poles are voting in the country’s parliamentary election, with the populist Law and Justice (PiS) government trying to win a third term in office and see off a challenge from an opposition led by the former prime minister and European Council president Donald Tusk.
Polling in the run-up to the vote suggested the race was too close to call, and the ability for either PiS or Tusk’s Civic Coalition to form a government is likely to come down to the results of other, smaller parties.
Both sides have painted the vote as being of decisive, if not existential, importance for the future of Poland. Tusk has described the election as “the last chance” to stop PiS from doing irreparable damage to Polish democracy.
PiS, which has governed Poland for eight years, has turned public television into a propaganda arm of the government, restricted abortion rights and demonised LGBTQ+ people, migrants and refugees.
It has also put Poland on a collision course with Brussels over rule of law issues, resulting in tens of billions of euros in European funding being frozen.
PiS has run a campaign from the populist playbook, claiming it is the only party that can protect Poland from an “invasion” of refugees. The campaign has also focused on the figure of Tusk, relentlessly attacking the challenger as a foreign stooge.
“This election will show whether Poland will be governed by Poles, or by Berlin or Brussels,” the PiS chair, Jarosław Kaczyński, said at the party’s final campaign rally on Friday.
Read the full story here.
Good evening and welcome to the Poland election live blog.
Polls will close at 9pm local time. Here you will find the latest results, news and analysis on what is expected to be a tight race.
The Guardian’s Shaun Walker is on the ground in Warsaw.
Did you vote in today’s election? Send your thoughts to email@example.com.
We will share some reader comments on the blog throughout the night.