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  • People voting for Poland's national elections.

    People voting for Poland's national elections. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 October 2019
Opinion

The Law and Justice party (PiS) is expected to win more votes than it did in 2015 and may get enough parliamentary seats to continue to govern alone. 

Turnout was high in Poland's parliamentary election Sunday, as voters decided whether to award a second term to the nationalists amid growing unease within the European Union about their commitment to democratic standards.

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The Law and Justice party (PiS) is expected to win more votes than it did in 2015 and may get enough parliamentary seats to continue to govern alone - but the shift in the political climate that it has presided over in the past four years has divided the country.

"There is a great polarization of attitudes now," said Krzysztof Michalec, 56, a former opposition activist during communism as he went to vote in Warsaw.

Polls opened at 5 am local time closed at 7 pm local time. At 3 pm local time the turnout was 45.94 percent, seven percentage points higher than at the same time in the previous parliamentary election in 2015.

PiS has cast the election as a choice between a society rooted in traditional Catholic values and a liberal order that promotes a chosen few and undermines family life.

Opposition parties and Poland's EU partners say the outgoing government has undermined the independence of the judiciary and the media and made Poland less welcoming for sexual and ethnic minorities.

Surveys show PiS winning 40-46 percent of votes, which may give the party an absolute majority. But it might need to form a coalition, which would raise the possibility of the far-right Confederation - one of three smaller groups that might garner the 5 percent of votes needed to enter parliament - becoming part of the government.

Polling 19-26 percent, the centrist Civic Coalition - an umbrella group that includes the Civic Platform formerly led by EU Council President Donald Tusk - looks certain to continue forming the main opposition.

Its candidate for prime minister, Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, Thursday accused Kaczynski of destroying democracy and seeking to sow further divisions. Support for the opposition is strongest in urban centers, where anti-PiS protests have previously drawn thousands of people.

The Church does not openly back any party but senior officials have given the PiS tacit support.

During campaigning, PiS has called lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights an invasive foreign influence that threatens Poland's national identity.

The party has also shifted Poland's foreign policy away from the European mainstream, becoming a leading proponent of calls to take some powers away from the EU, with which Warsaw is embroiled in a long-running row over judicial and media reforms.

PiS has also sought closer ties with U.S. President Donald Trump, with whom it shares views on coal mining, climate, and abortion - fuelling concern among some western EU diplomats that Trump could use the country to sow discord in Brussels over issues such as Iran.

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