Poland’s election averts EU collision course

Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk (ex prime minister and president of the European Council) is set to return as leader after last Sunday’s elections.

But it could take a few weeks.

The ruling, right-leaning Law & Justice party actually won the most votes (~36%), so it’ll technically have the first shot at forming a government.

But it’s the second-placed Tusk and his centrist Civic Coalition of parties who actually have the numbers in parliament to form a government.

A Civic Coalition government would mark a pretty significant shift:

  1. 🇪🇺 Warsaw has long criticised the EU and bristled at its accusations of democratic backsliding. But Tusk, well-known in Brussels, is pledging a new approach that could unlock billions in frozen EU aid
  2. 🇭🇺 Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is set to lose a fellow EU sceptic who frequently joined efforts to stymie EU resolutions, and
  3. 🇺🇦 Ukraine will now breathe a sigh of relief after Poland’s significant aid to its war-torn neighbour emerged as a thorny campaign issue.

This election saw a broad spectrum of parties offering some starkly different visions for Poland. So things often got heated, driving more folks to the polls (74%) than the 63% who turned out to topple communism in 1989.

Intrigue’s take: Zooming out, it’s not easy to place Poland’s election neatly within broader regional trends: for example, voters in Italy, Greece and Finland have all recently moved towards the right.

But Poland’s results do confirm another trend: out of the eleven European elections this year, the incumbent party has suffered real setbacks in six.

And to us, this suggests governments of every shape are struggling with a formidable in-tray right now, and voters are holding them accountable.

Also worth noting:

  • The Organization for Security & Co-operation in Europe says Poland’s opposition faced a pro-government public media bias.
  • Poland’s president and constitutional court have ties to the outgoing party and will retain authority to block legislation.
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