Leader of the main opposition Conservatives (PiS) Jaroslaw Kaczynski (C) speaks after the announcement of preliminary results of local elections at the PiS's headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, 07 April 2024. The Conservatives (PiS), the largest opposition party, won the most votes in elections for regional councils, according to an exit poll published on 07 April evening by Ipsos. The poll gave PiS 33.7 percent, Civic Coalition 31.9 percent, The Third Way 13.5 percent, and Confederation 7.5 percent. The Left received 6.8 percent, EPA-EFE/Radek Pietruszka


Opposition PiS edges Polish PM Tusk’s ruling coalition in local elections


Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s coalition alliance KO failed to beat the Conservatives (PiS) in the regional elections held on April 7.

His coalition partners described the result as a warning to the Government, and the leader of the PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, said it proved his opposition party was alive and kicking.

According to an exit poll for the three TV networks, the PiS attracted 33.7 per cent of the vote with the KO securing 31.9 per cent on a turnout of 51.5 per cent. That was well down from the general election turnout of 75 per cent.

Despite the PiS polling more votes than Tusk’s group, it will lose some of the regional councils it won at the last local elections in 2018. That is because the other force in Polish politics, the Third Way Alliance – which polled 13.5 per cent – is the KO’s coalition partner in Government and is more than likely to back it in the regional councils.

The local elections proved a tough test for the right-wing Confederation party, which won 7.5 per cent of the vote and for The Left, which secured 6.8 per cent.

The Confederation party will gain some leverage over PiS in the regions, where PiS needs its support to continue to govern. The Left party will also be needed in some other regions where Tusk’s party and the Third Way alliance will not have an overall majority by themselves.

The PiS, despite relief that the party’s vote held up, will be concerned by the fact that it fell back even further in many major cities where some of its candidates came third behind both the KO and Third Way.

Even in 2018, when support for the PiS was buoyant, the party failed to win any mayors in the major cities.

Nevertheless, Kaczyński said he was pleased the party had managed to top the table in the regional elections.

“This is the ninth election in a row in which we have topped the poll. To paraphrase Mark Twain, ‘reports of our death were greatly exaggerated,’” he said, alluding to the fact that, while the party lost power in last year’s parliamentary elections, it did poll the most votes in the latest contest.

Tusk concentrated on the positives of his party’s strong showing in the big cities such as Warsaw, where mayor Rafał Trzaskowski was re-elected in the first round of voting with almost 60 per cent of the vote.

Tusk also pointed to the fact that it was likely to take power in the majority of the Polish regions, since the parties that make up the broad ruling coalition of KO, Third Way and Left in total secured just over half of all the votes cast.

He did say that the election result showed there was still work to be done for his party and the ruling coalition.

“It was never going to be easy,” he said in an acknowledgement that the governing coalition had in total gained less support than it won in the national elections.

Before the local elections, Tusk’s party had claimed it was on course, with its allies, to take all but one of the regional councils; the results indicate that the PiS will retain control in three to six of Poland’s regions.

This fact was picked upon by Szymon Hołownia, joint leader of Third Way, who said the elections should be taken as a warning to the ruling coalition that voters “don’t want any internal quarrels, rather work on delivering our promises”.

The Left party’s leader Włodzimierz Czarzasty said the result should give the Government food for thought and that “there was a need for us to hold a serious discussion within the coalition about the way forward”.

Tensions have emerged in the governing coalition over legislation on abortion, which has been pushed by Tusk and The Left but resisted by Third Way, and over tax reductions for business, promoted by Third Way and resisted by The Left.

The April 7 elections were for all levels of local government: municipal, county and regional. They included mayoral contests in all of the approximately 2,500 Polish municipalities.

The relative levels of support for the political parties are best gauged by the elections at the regional level where party lists were dominant. At municipal and county levels, the results are less representative as in many of the smaller municipalities local independents were often the winners.

In the autumn of 2018, when local elections were last held, the PiS managed to gain control of eight of the 16 regions, six with overall majorities and two more in coalitions with independents. PiS polled 34 per cent of the vote and Tusk’s Civic Coalition 27 per cent.

The second run-off round of voting in the mayoral contests for municipalities where no candidate managed to secure more than 50 per cent will take place on Sunday April 21.

The country will be going to the polls again on June 9, electing 52 representatives to the European Parliament. Lists of candidates from the parties for that election are set to be finalised by the end of April.