Poles voting in polarized parliamentary polls
People in Poland have begun voting in general elections in a polarized contest between the right-wing ruling party and its main centrist rival.
According to Press TV, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party is vying with the Civic Coalition (KO) on Sunday for more parliamentary seats to determine the arrangement of the country’s future government.
The opposition received an unexpected last-minute boon when author Olga Tokarczuk, a known government critic who won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, urged Poles to choose wisely “between democracy and authoritarianism.”
Observers say the results hinge on the turnout. Two separate opinion polls published on Friday suggested that the PiS’s majority is at risk as it scored 40 to 41.7 percent support compared to a combined 41.4 and 45 percent for opposition parties.
“Turnout will decide whether the PiS governs alone, whether it must build a coalition, or even if it might lose its majority,” Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a Warsaw University political scientist, told AFP.
Turnout in the 2015 elections was 50.92 percent.
If the PiS — which came to power in a landslide victory in the 2015 elections — loses its absolute majority, the centrist KO will be expected to form an anti-PiS coalition government with the help of the center-right Polish Coalition and leftists.
If, however, the PiS retains its absolute majority in parliament, it will continue to pursue its nationalist policies in addition to media and judiciary reforms.
By putting the media and courts under direct government control, critics claim the PiS is weakening democracy in the formerly-communist country.
A combination of nationalist policies and generous welfare has given PiS strong public support not only in rural areas and among the less well-off but also among devout Catholics with conservative social values.
Many of the Polish voters are said to believe PiS is reviving the nation’s identity and traditions that had been compromised due to integration into the European Union.