With the gains of the opposition, Poland looks to unravel an ‘illiberal democracy’

Polish state television briefly halted its incessant abuse of government opponents as traitors, shocked by polls showing opposition forces had won enough seats in parliament to oust Poland’s nationalist ruling party on Sunday night. Earlier an evil announcer also called them “my beloveds”.

But it was only a split second. By Monday, Poland’s public broadcaster was back in the news as official results poured in, confirming an upset in a crucial general election. State television gave the vote to the ruling Law and Justice Party, though it fell well short of the majority needed to remain in power, giving the opposition a chance to form a coalition government. The broadcaster complained that the scandals had derailed the party’s efforts to shore up its hostility to immigration through a referendum.

The referendum, which coincided with Sunday’s vote for a new parliament, failed because many voters refused to participate, viewing the practice as an apparent stunt on law and justice to shore up its base and defend its policies regardless of the election’s outcome.

Official results released on Tuesday showed that Law and Justice won more than any single party with 35.4 percent of the vote, but the opposition led by the Civic Alliance won 53.7 percent.

The party with the most votes usually gets the right to try to form a government on its own or in coalition, but Law and Justice has little chance of doing so because potential partners have fared poorly in the polls. Work with it.

It puts Poland on the cusp of what many consider the most significant power shift since voters rejected communism in the country’s first partially independent elections in 1989.

However, the big question now is not only whether the opposition can form a government, but if it can take power, whether it can actually use it in a system like public broadcasting, the constitutional court, the judiciary in general, the central government. Are the Bank, the National Prosecutor’s Office and other branches of the state filled with believers in law and justice who, in many cases, cannot be easily expelled?

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“This is a very important question: How do we dismantle liberal democracy?” said Wojciech Przybylski, head of the Warsaw research group Res Publica Foundation.

Even with an outright majority in parliament, the opposition is unlikely to start cutting anything, more alarmist voices warn.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the Law and Justice Department and Poland’s de facto leader for the past eight years, made it clear in response to exit polls on Sunday evening that he was not going to give up without a fight.

“Remember that we have days of struggle ahead of us, days of tension,” the 74-year-old party leader told supporters.

Lech Walesa, the 1980s leader of Solidarity, the trade union movement that paved the way for the 1989 elections that toppled communism, warned in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza, a liberal newspaper. Former partner turned Mr. , “He has definitely brought something, He has definitely prepared something. He does not – and cannot – give up power.

The sudden resignation of two of Poland’s most senior and respected military commanders just days before Sunday’s vote added to the jitters. This prompted alarm in some opposition circles that Law and Justice could tighten its grip on the armed forces in an attempt to use force to continue the regime.

But that scenario, said Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, is highly unlikely. Mr. Kaczynski will use all his considerable political tact to cobble together a majority in parliament, but “he’s not going to bring the army to the streets. Even if he tries, the army won’t follow him.”

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A “constitutional crisis” is a more plausible “constitutional crisis,” he said — the newly elected parliament and Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, an ally of law and justice responsible for calling someone to form a new government.

As an example, Mr. Duda may be asked to try Law and Justice first as it has more votes than any other independent party. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki welcomed the disappointing polls “We won!” That announcement on Twitter He has already expressed his desire to stay in office, declaring that “we will definitely try to build a parliamentary majority”.

However, the chances of that happening are remote as Law and Justice won just 194 seats short of a majority in the 460-member assembly. Its only potential ally, the far-right group Confederakja, won 18 seats and has categorically said it will not work with Law and Justice, even if it can help.

Mr. Duda must propose a new prime minister acceptable to the opposition majority.

Donald Tusk, former prime minister and leader of the largest opposition Civic Alliance, is the obvious choice. But Mr. Duda, in an interview last year, described Mr Tusk as “a man I don’t believe in” who could never become prime minister again.

If none of the prime ministerial candidates put forward by the President can get the support of a majority of the legislators, Mr. Duda could order a new snap election, restarting the entire process and inflaming Poland’s already toxic polarization.

Mr. Puras said.

If the opposition can rally behind a prime minister proposed by the president to form a stable government, the risk of serious disruption is reduced. But that would open months, even years, of trench warfare around government agencies captured by Law and Justice.

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Public Broadcasting System, Nationwide Network of Radio and Television Channels, Law and Justice, Mr. Used to demonize the Tusk as a German lap dog, it should be relatively easy to replace. Every new government has the right to appoint top executives.

However, the most difficult to remove from the grip of law and justice, however, is the judiciary, including the Constitutional Court, whose Chief Justice Julia Przylebska, Mr. Kaczynski’s longtime friend and ally.

Mrs. Under Przylebska the court played a key role in advancing a conservative agenda of law and justice — and what critics say was illegal. Under him, the tribunal imposed an almost total abortion ban and also ruled that Poland’s constitution violates the laws of the European Union, of which Poland is a member and has pledged to follow its rules.

The opposition wants him gone soon, especially since his term, according to several lawyers, ended last December. He and his supporters are insisting that he serve at least one more year.

Adam Klapinski, President of the Central Bank of Poland and Mr. A close ally of Kaczynski’s and widely blamed for policies that have given Poland one of the highest inflation rates in Europe, he has five more years in office.

But unlike Hungary, where increasingly autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has captured government structures for 13 years, Poland, where Mr. Controlled by Kaczynski, it retains many aspects of a functioning democracy, with a vibrant independent press separate from state media and an economy not dominated by government cronies.

“Kaczynski is certainly preparing for what happened on Sunday, but he is not as entrenched in Hungary as Orban,” Mr. Przybylski said. Also, Donald J. Unlike Trump, Mr. He added that Kaczynski’s most ardent supporters were “not proud boys, but pensioners.”

Anatole Maktziars Contributed report.

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