PiS wins clear victory in Poland

Poland's ruling PiS strengthened its majority in Sunday's parliamentary elections, securing 43.6 percent of the vote, which means that it can now govern the country on its own. The liberal-conservative opposition alliance KO came in second with 27.4 percent. Commentators discuss how Kaczyński's party will deal with its success and how Europe should respond.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Governing party should move toward the centre

In its own interest the PiS must not abuse its new powers, Deutschlandfunk advises:

“The PiS should understand that if it does that everyone will lose in the end. Even the party itself. Because if the economy slows and it no longer has as much new money to distribute, with an authoritarian policy it could very quickly become a general object of hatred. The PiS could therefore use the current legislative period to move into the middle and seek a balance. Then the Poles' newfound interest in politics would be of great benefit to the country in the long term. Certain statements made by PiS politicians on election night have at least awoken a little hope.”

Klubjagiellonski.pl (PL) /

Senate can slow the government down

The opposition in the senate will at least ensure a livelier and more thorough debate of political decisions, comments jurist Rafał Gawlikowski on website Klubjagiellonski.pl:

“The victory of the opposition in the Senate won't block PiS reforms, but it will probably slow down the whole process. The Sejm, the lower chamber, can reject changes made by the Senate with an absolute majority. Fortunately the speedy legislative process of the last four years will slow down. In addition, the senators will be more visible in the media, which will have a positive impact on their position within the party.”

Aktuálně.cz (CZ) /

Only social programmes help against populists

For Aktuálně.cz the elections in Poland and Hungary have above all one factor in common:

“The governments in Central Eastern Europe know that you can't tighten the screws without generous social programmes. ... So the message coming out of Poland and Hungary is practically the same: Dear liberal democrats of all stripes, you can criticise us, try to bring us before the courts of the EU, frown at us. But if you can't oppose our populism with any truly effective economic or social programmes in your countries, we'll run the show here. In fact this message applies to all of Central Eastern Europe, although luckily the nationalist leaderships in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are less authoritarian. But the helplessness of the democratic opposition is practically the same in all of the Visegrád states.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Europe should learn from this

Le Temps explains why the PiS has been more successful than the liberals, who ruled from 2007 to 2015, when it comes to translating Poland's economic prosperity into victories at the polls:

“Kaczyński owes his success above all to the good economic situation. ... The liberals can boast of having brought about this 'miracle'. But the Poles no longer find them convincing. It's important to understand why. The nationalism of the PiS often takes on despicable traits, and the drifting towards authoritarianism of Kaczyński (who plays a key role behind the scenes) is dangerous. ... But there is another factor that explains the success of the conservatives: social justice. The liberals talked about it, but they banked on the market. The PiS took action, and the Poles are grateful for it. That could serve as a lesson for Europe.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

PiS triumphs thanks to social gifts

De Volkskrant is also convinced that the PiS's social policy was decisive for its victory:

“A higher minimum wage? Promised and implemented. Generous child benefits? Very popular. The retirement age? Lowered - against the European trend. Medicines for the elderly? Free of charge in future. With such measures the party makes itself particularly popular in rural areas where voters used to feel disadvantaged. ... Right-wing populism in Europe east of the Oder has once again shown itself to be alive and kicking. ... In Poland and Hungary cultural, media and judicial institutions are made to be dependent on the will of the government. But as long as this is accompanied by social gifts and Christian, anti-liberal rhetoric, many voters are quite willing to accept it.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Opposition in Hungary has understood the game

The Polish opposition parties have missed their chance, Gazeta Wyborcza concludes:

“While we were electing our parliament, the Hungarians were voting in local elections. Unlike our opposition parties, the Hungarians formed a bloc. As a result an opposition politician has become the mayor of Budapest. ... 'Budapest' today means that cooperation among the opposition helps to defeat autocratic parties. It's a pity we didn't have such a Budapest in our elections. The opposition parties won more votes overall, but fewer seats than the PiS.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

EU must now meet Poland halfway

Germany and the EU must find another way of dealing with Poland after this election victory, Der Tagesspiegel concludes:

“The wait and see strategy has reached its limits. ... One hopes that now all sides will do their best to achieve rapprochement and a compromise. ... Not all of what the PiS's critics dislike - often for good reason - amounts to a violation of European values. Each country is free to reject the shifting of further areas of competence to the EU, or to focus on national autonomy in those areas that do not fall within the community framework. Of course the EU must not bend when basic values, democracy, the rule of law and freedom of the media are threatened. But it's not too much help either when the accusations are of too general a nature.”