Unfulfilled Ambitions and Overestimated Opportunities, or Strange Elections That Nobody Won

Bernardo Bellotto: View of Warsaw from Praga // Public domain

On April 7, 2024 millions of Polish citizens went to the voting commissions to cast their ballots in this year’s local elections. Following the recent triumph of the “democratic coalition” over Law and Justice and a subsequent change of government in December, many got their hopes up for a landslide victory in early spring.

However, the elections’ result, although claimed by most parties to prove their success, does not align with any of their early expectations, instead constituting a warning sign for those claiming the public’s attention to politics to be constant and stable.

Law and Justice, which remains in first place in public support indicators, won the elections in terms of the number of local representatives that it managed to obtain. Yet, at the same time, it lost the majority in a significant part of provincial assemblies and municipal councils compared to their state of possession in 2018.

Although Civic Coalition secured a majority in most provincial assemblies of the country and significantly increased the number of its local councilors and city mayors, it did not manage to surpass Law and Justice and emerge victorious in the elections, which was apparently its aim and the natural continuation to the turn of the tide that Poland witnessed, choosing its new parliament in 2023. Except for an outstanding performance of Rafał Trzaskowski, who, running for re-election as a mayor of Warsaw, secured himself 57.42% of public support, and few other Civic Coalition leaders winning major Polish city halls, such as those in Gdańsk, Wrocław, and Kraków, very few of its achievements are deemed as somewhat exceeding the analysts’ predictions before the elections.

Neither these nor any of the other remaining parties have excelled in this year’s competition for control over the local and provincial councils and parliaments, which, combined with an electoral turnout equal to only 51.94% (which is less than in the 2018 local elections and as much as twenty percentage points less than in the 2023 parliamentary elections) swiftly dispelled the illusions of politicians projecting a stable and unconditional level of public support after the memorable events of October.

Currently, all the parties are launching their campaigns before the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, characterized by the lowest level of public participation of them all. Already being aware of the disruption that a low turnout may cause to their chances of winning, they strive to encourage the citizens to go and cast their ballots once more.

But will they succeed, once the stakes do not entail a threat to the country’s democracy anymore? And in case they will not, is this going to contribute to a long-lasting trend, having its influence on the outcome of next year’s presidential election? These and similar questions are likely to remain unanswered until the very announcement of the results.

Written by Mateusz Gwóźdź

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