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Polish exit polls signal conservative party’s ouster after 8 years in power

Polish exit polls Monday signal the ouster of the ruling nationalist party after eight years in power and the rise of a centrist government under opposition leader Donald Tusk. 

The incumbent Law and Justice (PiS) appeared to have won the most votes for any single party, but exit polls suggest a liberal bloc of parties will secure a parliamentary majority.

As a result, the liberal parties can oust the incumbents, putting an end to eight years under their control, Reuters reported. 

The National Election Commission shows Law and Justice has 36.27% of the vote, while Tusk’s Civic Coalition has garnered 29.41% and the Third Way has 14.45% so far. That’s with 80.27% of the votes counted, and the commission expects the final results to be ready by Tuesday evening, the BBC reported. 

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Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, addresses supporters at his party headquarters in Warsaw, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister and former EU president, and his Civic Party platform accuse the government of eroding the rule of law in Poland and promise to liberalize the country’s abortion law and free state media from government control. 

Tusk, who led two huge marches of supporters in Warsaw this year, already declared the beginning of a new era after exit polls Sunday.

“I have been a politician for many years. I’m an athlete. Never in my life have I been so happy about taking seemingly second place. Poland won. Democracy has won. We have removed them from power,” Tusk told his cheering supporters. “This result might still be better, but already today we can say this is the end of the bad time, this is end of Law and Justice rule.” 

Opposition parties had promised to reverse what they deemed democratic backsliding and repair the nation’s relationship with allies, including the European Union and Ukraine. 

The preliminary results suggest Poland, which is the European Union’s fifth-most populous country and its sixth-biggest economy, will not see a third term for its ruling conservative nationalist party that has been in power since 2015 and is led by Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

“The election results are in. Sadly, it looks like a globalist coalition has won in Poland,” the account End Wokeness wrote Sunday to more than 1.7 million followers on X, formerly Twitter.  

“Under current leadership, Poland has: -One of the lowest unemployment % -One of the highest GDP rates -One of the lowest debts -0 Jihadi terror attacks -0 illegal immigrants -Christian culture -Strong identity Once the EU puppets take power, you can kiss that all goodbys,” the post, which was viewed 2.7 million times as of midday Monday, said. 

Donald Tusk supporters celebrate

Supporters of Donald Tusk celebrate at his party headquarters in Warsaw, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Since taking power, PiS has tightened Poland’s abortion laws and built a wall on the border with Belarus intended to stop irregular migration. The ruling party had vowed to continue its anti-migration policy and to oppose EU plans on sharing responsibility for migrants.

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The government has also clashed with the EU over violations of democratic principles, leading to the freezing of billions of euros of pandemic recovery funds intended for Poland. Law and Justice wanted less EU authority in the 27 member countries. Though it has boosted military spending and been a strong supporter of Ukraine after the Russian invasion, their relationship has been strained recently over Ukrainian grain shipments through Poland.

Opposition leaders had argued that a referendum with four questions being held in parallel with the parliamentary vote was meant to drive voter turnout in favor of the ruling party. Voters were asked their views on whether to accept migrants, keep a new wall on the border with Belarus, raise the retirement age and sell off state assets.

Turnout was projected at almost 74%, the highest level in the country’s 34 years of democracy and surpassing the 63% who turned out in the historic 1989 vote that toppled communism. In the city of Wroclaw, the lines were so long that voting continued through the night until nearly 3 a.m. Young voters particularly came out in force to flood polling stations.

Poland's conservative party

Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski gets in a car after voting during parliamentary elections in Warsaw, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)

Germany already signaled support for the new government. Poland’s far-right ruling party butted heads for demanding war reparations from Berlin, Politico reported. 

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“If there is a change of government in Poland, Germany should launch an initiative to revitalize bilateral relations. At the center: increased security cooperation. Within the framework of NATO, with a clear message: Germany feels responsible for Poland’s security!” Social Democratic MP Metin Hakverdi, a member of the German parliament’s EU committee, wrote on X. 

Partial official results released Monday by the State Electoral Commission include over two-thirds of voting districts reporting. Outstanding results are mostly from bigger cities where the opposition is strongest. There appeared to be no path for another term for Law and Justice, according to The Associated Press. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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