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Poland Politics October 2018

Poland: Enthusiasm for PiS wanes amid regional-elections win

In what was seen as a bellwether for next year’s general elections, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) narrowly gained local-council seats in regional elections across Poland on 21 October. Of the 16 local councils up for grabs, PiS won in 9—although their ability to form majorities could eventually be limited to only a couple. Despite the populists’ improved numbers from 2014’s regional elections, a considerable loss of support in cities and ebbing momentum in some rural areas compared with 2015’s general elections suggest waning enthusiasm among voters. Stronger-than-expected support for the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) surprised analysts.

Although the historical relationship between regional and general elections in Poland is less than clear, many analysts took the result as voters’ first opportunity to voice their preferences ahead of next October’s parliamentary vote. Commenting on the outcome, Rafal Benecki, chief economist at ING, noted:

“Overall, we find the regional elections as a slight surprise. PiS won the battle in numerical terms and should see the safe elections results as a great success for the fourth time in a row. But in reality, their performance was below expectations and polls. They also hardly improved their position in local councils and were strongly defeated in big cities. […] Still, the general elections are in one year and it is difficult to say who will win. [Support for PiS] in the regional elections was below expectations and polls, so the party is losing momentum. On the other hand, support for the coalition of Civic Platform (PO) and Modern (.Nowoczesna) was also slightly below polls and could not break the so-called glass ceiling.”

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