Polish Election May Result in Loss for Conservatives
In Poland, leftist politicians are preparing to oust the ruling conservative party from power in the wake of a contentious national election. According to exit polls conducted by IPSOS and updated Monday morning, the ruling Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc or PiS) party won more votes on Sunday than other parliamentary parties, but not enough to earn a majority.
PiS garnered nearly 37% of the vote, while the more liberal Civic Coalition came in second with 31%. Smaller conservative parties have ruled out siding with PiS to form a coalition government, largely citing alleged PiS scandals like bribery, but liberal and left-wing parties like the Third Way (which earned 3% of the vote) and The Left (which earned almost 9%) have expressed an openness to partnering with the Civic Coalition.
Since coming into power nearly a decade ago, PiS has made Christian principles integral to its platform and policy, promoting marriage, rejecting the LGBT agenda, and ardently adhering to and advancing pro-life policies. The Civic Coalition’s leader Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland, promised last year that his party would oversee a “march towards modernity,” which included liberalizing abortion and endorsing the LGBT agenda. Tusk said of Sunday’s election results, “I have never been so happy in my life with this supposed second place, Poland won, democracy won,” pledging to adopt leftist European Union (EU) policies and denouncing the reign of PiS as “evil.”
Final vote counts will be officially released on Tuesday. If PiS loses its majority, what would an opposition coalition mean for conservative and Christian principles in Poland?
Poland currently has some of the most pro-life laws in the whole of Europe. As of a 2021 Constitutional Court ruling, abortions are only legally permissible when the mother’s life is endangered — in which case a physician must certify the circumstances — or when the pregnancy is the result of a rape — in which case a prosecutor must certify the circumstances. Abortion has been almost entirely illegal in Poland since 1997, when the Constitutional Court struck down “difficult living conditions” as legal grounds for an abortion, and abortions were only legal in cases of rape, when the mother’s life was endangered, or in the case of a severe fetal handicap. During its tenure, PiS managed to have this last condition struck down.
Leftists have been critical of PiS’s pro-life position. The E.U. published a resolution condemning the Polish Court’s decision in 2021 and, more recently, NPR claimed that PiS’s pro-life legislation was a “final straw” for voters, resulting in a steady decline in support for the ruling party.
If PiS is removed from power, a government headed by Donald Tusk and the Civic Coalition is likely to do away with a number of pro-life laws. For example, the Civic Coalition introduced legislation in 2021 to allow elective abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and to allow abortions after that in cases of “difficult personal situations,” which must be certified by a psychologist. Tusk touted the legislation last year, bragging, “We have a bill on legal abortion up to 12 weeks, which would be a decision made by the woman in consultation with a doctor, and not the decision of a priest, prosecutor or PiS activist.”
Furthermore, Tusk — a former President of the European Council and still heavily involved in E.U. politics — vowed to endorse and promote E.U. policies, which include leftist platform points like abortion liberalization. In fact, the E.U. even decided to include Poland’s 2021 Constitutional Court ruling that banned eugenicist abortions in its investigation into Poland’s alleged violations of E.U. rule of law. Tusk’s broad adoption of E.U. policy would allow non-Polish bureaucrats in Brussels a greater say in Poland’s laws on abortion.
Like Hungary’s conservative Fidesz party, PiS has staunchly opposed the LGBT agenda, emphasizing instead the importance of the natural family, the institution of marriage, and the protection of children. In 2005, before coming to power, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski declared, “The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can’t agree to it.” Since coming to power in Poland’s legislature, PiS has upheld marriage as being between one man and one woman and has refused to recognize same-sex unions.
In 2018, the E.U. ruled that member states must recognize same-sex unions; PiS refused to do so, which resulted in the European Court of Human Rights moving against Poland in 2020. Given Tusk’s obeisance to the E.U., such pro-LGBT policies would be put in place, as evinced by the Civic Coalition leader’s campaign promises to legally recognize same-sex unions. He also outlined legislation to more easily allow people to legally identify as transgender, doing away with what he called “the current very complicated and humiliating, ghastly court procedures.”
A top priority for PiS has been the protection of Poland’s borders. Unlike much of the E.U., Poland has refused to enact open-borders policies and has taken stringent measures to prevent illegal immigration, such as mobilizing the military to protect Poland’s border with Belarus when the Belarusian government began funneling illegal immigrants across the border or utilizing riot control measures to keep illegal immigrants from entering. In a 2017 speech, PiS official Joachim Brudzinski explained his party’s commitment to protecting Polish sovereignty through strict border control:
“They say that PiS is taking us out of Europe as if we had never been in Europe. If it weren’t for Poland, there would be no Europe … there wouldn’t be this madness with opening the doors wide in Germany, in France, with Chancellor Angela Merkel welcoming fancy 18 to 19-year-olds, allegedly fleeing from the war. … Someone has to stop this madness, and Poland will stop it. That’s why I’m proud of your votes, because today Poland is safe thanks to the government of Law and Justice.”
Poland has also fallen afoul of the E.U.’s refugee policies, which require member states to accept as refugees illegal immigrants from countries like Italy and Greece and charge fines of €20,000 ($21,090) for each illegal immigrant a nation refuses to take. Polish Prime Minister and PiS official Mateusz Morawiecki harshly criticized the recent migration pact, asking, “Why should we agree to this diktat from Brussels and Berlin?”
In campaigning leading up to Sunday’s election, PiS made immigration a focal point of its platform, particularly noting Tusk’s concessions to E.U. policies while serving as Prime Minister, which saw thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa admitted to Poland. PiS’s campaigning also emphasized Tusk’s tenure as President of the European Council, during which he threatened his own nation with economic sanctions for rejecting an E.U. immigrant relocation program.
At present, Poland and Hungary are the only two member states standing against leftist E.U. policy on abortion, LGBT ideology, and unrestricted immigration. Sunday’s election has been hailed as the most important in Poland since the fall of the Soviet Union and saw a record 73% of the population show up at the polls. Final vote counts will be confirmed Tuesday morning.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.