Poland: Populist Conservative Party Remains Strong in Election

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 14, 2019   

Law and Justice party keeps control of parliament's lower house

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WARSAW (ChurchMilitant.com) - Poland's populist conservative party is keeping its majority in the lower house of parliament.

The final results of Poland's election were announced Monday. Conservative ruling party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość,or PiS) received nearly 44% of the vote, which means it will maintain its majority in the Sejm, or lower house. The largest opposition group, the liberal center-right Civic Coalition, got about 27% of the national vote.

This confirms the victory announcement that PiS leaders made late Sunday, in the wake of favorable data from exit polls.

Jarosław Kaczyński, the party's president, told supporters Sunday night in Warsaw, "We have reasons to be happy."

"We are finishing a certain stage; we are starting a new one," he said in the victory speech. "It is not easier, maybe more difficult. But I hope that it will be finished with even greater success."

Kaczyński also declared, "Poland needs to keep on changing, and Poland needs to change for the better."

Though maintaining a majority in the lower house, PiS is losing its majority in the Senate, the upper house of Poland's parliament. Even though PiS garnered a larger number of votes than any other coalition, the number of PiS seats will get knocked down to 49 from 61.

Bloomberg reported that PiS leadership seemed disappointed that the party did not achieve a more decisive victory in Sunday's vote. The news outlet quoted Warsaw University political scientist Olgierd Annusewicz as stating, "Kaczyński really counted on a bigger majority, which would allow him to override presidential vetos."

This year's election saw a record-high voter turnout of 61%.

This year's election saw a record-high voter turnout of 61%.

The ruling party in Poland, known for its nationalism and populism, has promoted pro-family policies.

PiS championed the "Family 500+" program, in which families receive a monthly government payment of 500 złoty (about $128) for every child after the first. (For low-income families, the first child is counted as well.)

One of the reasons for this benefit program is Poland's low birth rate. For the past 20 years, Poland's birth rate has been below the replacement rate of 2.1%.

Even some of PiS' harshest critics on the Left have expressed positive views of the Family 500 program, on the grounds that it aids working-class families.

Poland is a predominantly Catholic country. About 87% of Poles are Catholics, and about 37% of those Catholics are practicing.

Following news of PiS' victory in the lower house, some critics argued democracy itself is in jeopardy in Poland. Among other things, the administration has been criticized for its nationalist and populist platform.

In recent years, Poland's government has taken a strong stance against mass migration into Europe from the Middle East and Africa. This puts Poland at odds with the European Union, of which it is a member state.

Poland's conservative, nationalist government has also been criticized for policies related to the country's court system. Most recently, the EU filed suit against Poland's government, just three days before the election, over a new measure in Poland that the EU says undermines the independence of the nation's judiciary.

One interesting detail from Sunday's elections is that Grzegorz Braun received more than 30,000 votes running for a seat in the lower house. Braun, a Catholic, was director of the film Luther and the Protestant Revolution, which sought to shed light on Martin Luther's life and expose his negative impact on history.

Poland's 2019 national election was scheduled for October 13 by Poland's Catholic president Andrzej Duda. According to Poland's constitution, it is the president's duty to select the date for the election. The constitution further requires that elections only be held on a non-working day, such as a Sunday or national holiday.

Abortion is illegal in most cases in Poland, but there are exceptions on the books for certain medical conditions.

Church Militant reached out to the Ordo Iuris Institute for comment on the election results, but received no response as of press time. The institute has a history of actively supporting stronger pro-life legislation in Poland.

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