Why Did the Opposition Win Polish Elections?

Jules Lefebvre: An Allegory of Victory // Public domain

I present a brief analysis of the key factors that influenced the opposition’s victory in the parliamentary elections in October.

The order of the points does not imply a hierarchy of importance.

Avoidance of Opposition Voter Loss Effect

In these elections, no radical party, akin to Razem, emerged, explicitly stating its refusal to collaborate with other parties. Such a party would attract votes from major political factions but fall short of entering the Parliament, failing to surpass the 5 or 8 percent threshold.

This situation highlights the peril posed by extremely left movements to the future of Poland’s democratic system, as they wage a war against “liberals” while staunchly defending their radical demands. Democratic politics is the art of compromise. In the near future, liberals and the left are bound to each other if they want to govern the country effectively.

At the same time, Donald Tusk skillfully integrated diverse “free electrons,” which theoretically could have acted independently, into strategic positions on his lists. This maneuver resulted in securing crucial additional percentage points of votes.

Paradoxically, and contrary to the expectations of most liberal political commentators, three opposition lists turned out to be a good solution. The Third Way, a well-executed alliance of PSL and Poland 2050, was an offer to center voters who did not want to vote for Tusk. The Left’s list ensured the votes of radicals from the political side who would also never vote for the “liberals” from the Civic Coalition. The D’Hondt method is not always decisive; people’s views also matter.

Comprehensive Program

In previous years, opposition parties struggled to develop detailed and apealling solutions. They were paralyzed for years by the mistaken belief that either announcing something specific would result in losing part of the electorate, or by the myth that the program held little significance. The success of Law and Justice (PiS) in previous elections was, in part, attributed to the strength of its program.

In October 2023, the question of “But what will the opposition actually do after taking power?” became irrelevant. Clearly, ordinary people are engaging in discussions about the program, and the prior neglect of it by the opposition was a form of underestimating the public.

Strong Leader

People need strong and determined leadership. This is simply fundamental in politics. Ewa Kopacz and Grzegorz Schetyna, regardless of our degree of appreciation, simply did not have leadership qualities. While opinions about Donald Tusk may be mixed, the assertion that the opposition lacks a strong leader can be refuted. Tusk is a natural and strong leader.

Turning Point

During this fall, there was no nitpicking. Influential opposition circles approached the campaign with maximum mobilization and determination, seeking available resources and mutually motivating each other. The massive voter turnout in the elections served as evidence of this unified effort and yielded a splendid result.

Fatigue of Eight Years of PiS Rule

Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that PiS managed to retain a significant part of its electorate, which is a unique achievement. This electorate, as a support base for PiS or another entity that will emerge on the right, will remain a consistent factor in Polish politics in the years to come.

Excellent Pro-Turnout Campaigns and Good Election Campaign

The success of the election campaign and turnout initiatives were based on clear objectives, precise definition of target groups, and effective micro-targeting – finally! It is crucial to acknowledge that this electoral triumph was the result of extensive efforts of numerous non-governmental organizations and informal groups, spanning from liberals to the left, all working tirelessly for this victory.

From these still weakly institutionalized organizations, strong institutions should emerge advocating for liberal democracy in Poland. Without such transformation, the victory in the 2023 elections may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory in perspective.

New Faces on Election Lists

The title speaks for itself.

Neutralizing the Confederation’s Influence

Efforts were successfully made to disarm the Confederation, a party with a significant pool of undecided voters in the spring. It was possible to expose its leader, Sławomir Mentzen, and to reveal the party’s genuinely conservative, anti-European, and anti-women stance point by point.

Mentzen aimed to portray the Confederation as a centrist and liberal party, appealing to the middle class—a political niche currently vacant in Poland. However, this proved unattainable, given the views of individual Confederation politicians standing behind Mentzen.

Had electoral circumstances allowed, the Confederation might have aligned with PiS, potentially becoming a coalition partner in exchange for halting aid to Ukraine and aligning more closely with Russian interests.

The dependence on the Confederation, the sole party in Poland with de facto sympathies toward Russia, was unacceptable for Poland’s national interest, transatlantic relations, and likely many allies. From a geopolitical perspective, the Confederation posed a greater threat to Poland’s vital interests than the pro-Atlantic Law and Justice.

The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/dlaczego-opozycja-wygrala-wybory/

Translated by Natalia Banaś

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