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Elections in Poland: the Сourse Is Unchanged, - Valentyn Gladkykh

Regardless of the election results, it is unlikely that Poland will fundamentally change its position on the need to support Ukraine. Valentyn Gladkykh, an expert at the United Ukraine Think Tank, writes about this in his article for The Gaze. The text of the article can be found below.

In an electoral democracy, it is very easy to fall into the illusion that political life revolves exclusively around elections and related public debates. Of course, elections are very important as the only legal and legitimate way to gain power in democratic regimes, but we should not forget that politics is not only a struggle for power, but also the further use of this power to perform the function of social governance.

This is the dual nature of politics in a democracy: on the one hand, in order to come to power, it is necessary to win the favor of voters; on the other hand, in order to stay in power, it is necessary to solve the problems that arise on the agenda, and it is desirable to do so in a way that does not lose the support of voters.

With this in mind, it is also necessary to distinguish between what in the pre-election rhetoric of politicians is merely propaganda slogans aimed at encouraging voters to make a particular choice, and what will become a policy that will be implemented by the winner of the race.

It should also be borne in mind that in the modern world, and especially for states that are members of interstate organizations such as the European Union, national sovereignty as the ability to independently pursue domestic and foreign policy is necessarily limited by the activities and powers of supranational institutions. This is not, of course, about vulgar rhetoric about external governance or the dominance of the "Brussels bureaucracy." We are talking about a complex process of harmonizing the positions of national governments elected by the citizens of the respective states at the level of supranational institutions in order to form a consolidated position.

In view of this, the results of the elections in each EU member state should be viewed not only through the prism of the domestic political situation at the national level, but also from the perspective of further relations between the elected national authorities and the supranational institutions of the European Union, and, accordingly, how these relations may affect the position of both the national government and the position of the European Union on certain issues of importance to them.

Political Solitaire

Looking at the upcoming parliamentary elections in Poland from this perspective, we must realize that they are included in the national and European context and are characterized by all the processes and phenomena observed in other EU countries: the clash between Euro-optimists and Euro-skeptics; the struggle between conventional liberals and conservatives; conventional left and conventional right, etc.

Poles will elect 100 members of the Senate, the upper house of parliament, and 460 members of the Sejm, the lower house. It is the composition of the Sejm that plays a decisive role in shaping the country's policy: the prime minister is elected from among its members, and he appoints ministers. The government is formed by a party or a coalition of parties that wins at least 231 seats in the Sejm. Currently, out of 22 ministers in the Polish government, 15 represent Law and Justice. In 2015, Andrzej Duda won the presidential election as a candidate of this party.

The party professes rather conservative views (remember the ban on abortion), and in general is very close to "Eurosceptics" in many respects, which is manifested in numerous disputes that arise over migration policy or demands that Germany pay compensation for the occupation of Poland during World War II. PiS voters are mostly older people from small towns and villages who share the party's conservative views and are religious.

It is noteworthy that only 13% of those who are ready to vote for PiS have a university degree. However, to its credit, during the Law and Justice government, Poland's GDP per capita increased by 5.1%, and unemployment fell to 2.8% in 2022. Various social benefits, such as child support, have also increased.

The main competitor is Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party. Tusk has already published a list of measures that his government will implement in the first hundred days in power, including social guarantees, liberalization of abortion legislation, state payment for IVF, and separation of church and state. Tusk's party is supported mainly by residents of large cities, many of whom have higher education.

In addition to the aforementioned parties, right-wing Eurosceptics from the Confederation, the New Left (or Livytsia), and the moderately conservative Third Way are also projected to have a chance of entering parliament.

The gap between the main competitors is around 6%, so the process of forming a coalition may be quite difficult, despite the fact that there is a preliminary agreement between the Civic Platform, Livytsia, and Third Way on their readiness to form a coalition after the elections.

Implications for Relations With the EU and Ukraine

Despite the great temptation to add the issue of support for Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia to the issues around which the participants in the Polish elections are building their electoral strategy, this would be an exaggeration. Even despite the tension that has arisen in relations between Ukraine and Poland over the issue of "Ukrainian grain," there is no need to dramatize the need to support Ukraine, as neither PiS nor the Civic Platform expresses any doubts about it.

However, it should be borne in mind that the period of internal political turbulence associated with both the election race and the subsequent coalition, the outcome of which is far from clear, may complicate Poland's relations with both the EU and Ukraine, at least at the level of rhetoric, which is actually happening now. However, regardless of the outcome of the elections, it is unlikely that Poland will fundamentally change its position on the need to support Ukraine in countering Russian aggression and in realizing its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, i.e., EU and NATO membership. Be that as it may, the elections are over, and the Polish establishment will have to defend national interests despite the polarization in society. And strategically, these interests lie not only in strengthening Poland's position in Euro-Atlantic structures, but also in strengthening these structures, including by integrating Ukraine into them.

Source: "The Gaze"

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