(CTN NEWS) – The right-wing populist Law and Justice party is on course to win most seats in Poland’s general election, an exit poll suggests, but is unlikely to secure a third term in office.
Known as PiS, it is set to win 36.8% of the vote, with the centrist opposition on 31.6%, according to the Ipsos poll.
If that is correct, Donald Tusk‘s Civic Coalition has a better chance of forming a coalition.
He is aiming to end eight years of PiS rule under leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
The PiS leader admitted he did not know if the party’s “success will be able to be turned into another term in power”.
“Poland won, democracy has won,” Mr Tusk, 66, told a large crowd of jubilant supporters in what felt like a victory rally in Warsaw. “This is the end of the bad times, this is the end of the PiS government.”
There were roars as the exit poll flashed up on the screen and Mr Tusk appeared to loud cheers and chants of his name.
Supporters appeared stunned by the exit poll, and election officials said later that turnout was probably 72.9%, the highest since the fall of communism in 1989.
PiS was heading for 200 seats in the 460-seat Sejm or parliament, it said, which would fall some way short of the 231 seats needed for a majority.
It is unlikely to have much help from the far-right Confederation party, whose leader admitted it had fared far worse than expected, with a predicted 12 seats.
The vote has been described as Poland’s most significant since the fall of communism and is considered crucial for the country’s future within the European Union.
Donald Tusk, leader of the Civic Coalition, aims to mend relations with the EU and unlock €36 billion in EU Covid pandemic recovery funds that have been frozen due to a dispute over judicial reforms implemented by the PiS party.
These reforms resulted in the appointment of judges sympathetic to the ruling party.
If the exit poll is confirmed, Tusk’s party will have a better chance of forming a broad coalition, potentially with the centre-right Third Way and the left-wing Lewica.
Before the polls closed, there were few smiles among PiS party supporters. Jaroslaw Kaczynski expressed hope that the party would remain committed to its agenda, regardless of whether it was in power or in opposition.
Despite the exit poll indicating a loss of 35 seats since the 2019 election, PiS supporters remained hopeful of forming a government.
They chanted “Jaroslaw” and waved Polish flags, emphasizing that the exit poll was merely a prediction.
Large queues formed outside polling stations across Poland, with one of the largest gatherings in Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.
The high turnout was attributed to a strong and emotionally charged campaign.
One result of Poland’s ferocious election campaign was the increased turnout. “It seems that we beat the turnout record,” Commission head Sylwester Marciniak told a news conference.
Many voters in central Warsaw came with children and even pets, and election officials and security guards helped elderly voters climb the steps.
Voters talked of being nervous about the result of the election, and all of them saw it as decisive for the future direction of Poland.
Whoever wins, Poland’s strong support for Ukraine is unlikely to change, almost 20 months into Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Many voters in Poland emphasized the significance of the election, particularly due to the war on the country’s border and the need for a government that can effectively navigate these challenges while being more resistant to Russia.
With over 30,000 polling stations in operation, there were long queues both in Poland and among the 600,000 registered expats who were eligible to vote.
These elections held great importance for pro-Europeans and those seeking a shift in political direction.
Civic Coalition has made promises regarding liberalizing abortion laws following a near-total ban imposed in 2021.
The centre-right Third Way is poised to be one of the prominent winners, securing around 13% of the vote, offering an alternative to the two major parties.
The Polish electoral system is based on proportional representation with a party-list system, and votes from expats are counted in the Warsaw district.
The appointment of a prime minister in Poland usually involves the president asking the largest party to form a government, but President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling party, might find it politically challenging to appoint a prime minister who cannot form a government.
The appointed prime minister must win a vote of confidence in the Sejm.
Five parties appear to be crossing the 5% threshold required to enter the 460-seat Sejm or parliament.
The elections also included voting for the Senate and participating in four referendums, seemingly designed to encourage PiS supporters to vote.
The referendums raised questions about the retirement age and whether Poland should accept more migrants from the rest of the EU.
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