Poland election: Populist Law and Justice party win majority

The ruling party has found itself in a dispute with the EU over its judiciary reforms

TOPSHOT - Leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski reacts after the first exit polls during the party's electoral evening in Warsaw, Poland, on October 13, 2019.  Poland's governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party won the general election in Poland, expanding its majority, according to an exit poll by the Ipsos institute.  / AFP / AFP PHOTO / Wojtek RADWANSKI
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Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party have won a majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, raising fears that the victory will increase tensions between the country and the European Union.

The populist party improved their performance from four years ago securing 43.8 per cent of the vote, according to the official results on Monday afternoon from 99.5 per cent of constituencies declared.

The biggest opposition grouping Civic Coalition (KO), comprising of centrist and liberal parties which was formerly led by European Council President Donald Tusk, came second with 27.2 per cent.

"We have four years of hard work ahead. Poland must change more and it must change for the better," PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on Sunday evening after an exit poll showed his party winning a majority.

PiS shaped the election as a choice between a society rooted in traditional Catholic values and a liberal order that promotes elites and undermines family life.

Mr Kaczynski’s bid to create a welfare state has drawn support from poorer Poles who feel they have missed out on prosperity since the collapse of communism in 1989.

Deputy Digitalisation Minister Andrzej Andruszkiewicz, who is seen as far right ally, tweeted that it was “time to complete decommunisation”.

The victory leaves the party on course to carry out reforms, which critics say undermine judicial independence and the rule of law.

Poland is already in a dispute with the EU over the introduction of a law which allows Polish judges to be investigated and sanctioned for their court rulings.

The KO, seen as popular among urban voters worried about the ruling party’s divisive politics, had promised to reverse PiS’s court reforms.

Piotr Buras, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the populist victory is down to the economic boom in Poland which began during PiS’s last term rather than a growth in nationalist feeling among Poles.

“The opposition sought to frame this election around democracy, the rule of law and values of openness and tolerance,” Mr Buras said. “However, the cut-through seems to have been on national economic growth, social provision, and, ultimately, how well-off everyday Poles are feeling.”