Did PiS or Civic Platform win Poland’s election? The answer is not a simple one. Don’t expect Tusk to be PM any time soon

People line up to cast their ballots during Poland's Parliamentary elections in Warsaw, Poland. (Omar Marques / Stringer)


On October 15 2023 Poland held its general elections. As of now, we are analysing exit polls and preliminary ballot counts. The final results will be released on October 17 2023. It’s crucial to understand that the exceptionally high and unexpected voter turnout may influence the initial polling outcomes, suggesting the potential for alterations once the complete tally is in.

Exit poll data from Ipsos reveals the following breakdown:

PiS (Law and Justice): 36.8 per cent translating to 200 seats

KO (Civic Coalition): 31.6 per cent or 163 seats

Trzecia Droga (Third Way, combining PSL and Poland 2050): 13 per cent, amounting to 55 seats

Lewica (The Left): 8.6 per cent, securing 30 seats

Konfederacja (Confederation): 6.2 per cent, acquiring 12 seats

The voter turnout stood at a record 72.9 per cent. This attendance rate surpasses any previously recorded in modern Poland’s electoral history, even besting the 62.7 per cent of 1989. The robust participation underscores a heightened political engagement amongst Poles, a significant contrast to the disengagement observed in several other Western democracies.

A closer look at the exit polls shows that PiS and Civic Coalition’s performance aligns with pollster predictions, with the average polling  mirroring the reported percentages.

Interestingly, PiS has replicated its 2015 performance, though it lags behind its 2019 showing of 43.6 per cent. Despite this, the party lacks the numbers to independently form a government, and the lacklustre performance by the ultra-nationalist and ultra-liberal Confederation rules out a potential coalition.

The next steps involve President Andrzej Duda, who, in line with Poland’s post-Communist political protocol, will designate an MP from the majority party for government formation.

While Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki retains his position, he has a fortnight post the month-long transitional period to rally a minimum of 230 MPs to support his leadership — a daunting task given the current numbers. Though seemingly far-fetched, there’s a slight possibility of roping in MPs from the Confederation or Third Way for coalition support. 

In the event Morawiecki can’t forge a government, an adversary of PiS will most probably assume the Prime Ministerial role. However, this new administration might grapple with instability, given the contrasting ideologies of the opposition factions. Moreover, the Presidential power to veto Sejm-passed bills can only be countered with a 60 per cent majority vote.

To conclude, we have to await the final count, which will shed light on the exact number of MPs Morawiecki must secure for a stable tenure. If PiS and the Confederation can secure an additional 20 MPs, the prospects for PiS remain viable. Moreover, the current opposition also faces challenges in forming a government.