June 14. 2024. 12:53

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Poland’s Tusk and conservative PiS neck-and-neck ahead of EU vote

The European elections in Poland are set to be another battle between the two main rival parties, with Jarosław Kaczyński’s conservative PiS (ECR) and Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO, EPP) neck-and-neck in the polls.

Despite winning the parliamentary elections last October, PiS failed to secure a parliamentary majority and lost power to the broad coalition of centrist and left-wing parties led by Tusk. This brought an end to its eight-year rule marked by conflicts with Brussels and growing closeness with Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.

Similarly, the PiS won regional committees in local elections in April but suffered defeat in the big cities, which tended to vote for centrist or liberal parties.

Now, with the European elections, the rival camps of PiS and Tusk face yet another test of their voters’ loyalty and mobilisation.

PiS and the government’s blame game

Three main EU-related issues have dominated the Polish election campaign. The first concerns possible changes to the EU treaties, which the PiS believes could threaten the country’s sovereignty.

The main bone of contention is abolishing unanimous voting on foreign, security and fiscal issues, which the PiS and the far-right Confederation Party strongly oppose.

Another key issue is migration, especially in light of the EU’s recently adopted pact on migration and asylum.

The PiS warns the country will be forced to take in thousands of migrants and accuses Tusk of lying that Poland will benefit from the new system because it has already taken in large numbers of Ukrainian refugees.

The third major issue concerns the European Green Deal, as Poland saw some of the largest farmers’ protests at the start of 2024.

With PiS and the current governing coalition blaming each other for failing to meet the demands of the farming sector, the Confederation is vowing to scrap the Green Deal altogether.

Far-right Confederates the main game-changer

KO is expected to win 34% of the vote and 19 of Poland’s 53 seats in the next European Parliament, compared to PiS’s 33% and 16 seats, or 18 if counted with its close coalition partner, the Sovereign Poland party.

The Confederation Party is in third place with an estimated 12% and six seats. The far-right grouping is expected to win by a slim majority over the two remaining governing parties, mainly the centrist Third Way (Renew/EPP) alliance, which is polling at 11% (4 seats), and the Left (9%).

PiS’s strong showing would contribute to the expected overall rise of the right wing. However, given that Kaczyński’s party and Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) are the ECR’s backbone, the group’s potential largely depends on how many votes these two parties receive.

Another EU group that would be particularly important for its performance in Poland is the European People’s Party (EPP), as its member parties, the centre-right Civic Platform (PO), the main party in the KO alliance, and the agrarian Polish People’s Party (PSL), are expected to give the EPP a total of 19 seats.

Most notable, however, is the Confederation Party, founded before the 2019 European elections. While it did not win any mandates then, this time it is expected to do much better.

Even if it would struggle to win more than six or seven seats in the EU Parliament, much will depend on which group it decides to join.

Joining the ECR is unlikely. Apart from the bad blood between the Confederation and the PiS, the other sticking point is the mild anti-Ukrainian stance, according to Karolina Borońska-Hryniewiecka, a professor of political science at the University of Wroclaw.

Polish Confederation party unlikely to join ECR, experts say

Poland’s far-right Confederation Party, likely to have MEPs for the first time after the upcoming European elections, will either try to join the far-right Identity or Democracy group or form a new faction with AfD and Fidesz, experts say.

The Identity and Democracy group, on the other hand, seems too pro-social for the Confederation, with its largely free-market profile, says Przemysław Witkowski of Collegium Civitas University in Warsaw.

For Witkowski, the most likely option for the Confederation is to join forces with the German AfD and some other independent parties.

Clash over the commissioner.

Another issue likely to arise after the elections is a potential conflict between the government and the president over the nominee for the commissioner position.

According to the new law, the head of state must approve the government’s choice of commissioner.

Tusk wants to nominate Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski in the hope that he will be given a defence portfolio or the post of High Representative.

This may meet with resistance from President Andrzej Duda, who, often accused of favouring his old party, would be more likely to back the PiS candidate, MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | Euractiv.pl)

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