THE POLISH left’s collapse has ensured the next few years will be a battle between liberalism and conservatives, an expert has told Redaction Politics.
Robert Biedroń, running under Poland’s left-wing alliance, fell well short of qualifying for the second round as he only picked up 432,129 votes – or just over 2 percent of the electorate.
This meant the party, which had reasonably high hopes after a strong performance in the parliamentary elections in October, lagged behind the far-right Confederation, the Polish People’s Party and the Independent candidate Szymon Hołownia.
In a March interview with this publication, Professor Aleks Szczerbiak had warned that the left had “not capitalised on this success as they should have done and replaced the liberals as the main opposition.”
Following the close-fought race between Andrzej Duda and Rafał Trzaskowski, he has now said that the left won’t wrestle back its place in mainstream Polish politics for a while.
He told Redaction Politics: “Within the opposition, it was a very bad election for the left.
“Civic Platform showed that it is the main centre of opposition at the moment – and its a liberal centrist party, not a left-wing party, around which mass opposition is coalescing.
“After the last elections in 2019, the left could realistically talk about a project leading up to these elections where it challenges or potentially replaces Civic Platform – but the disaster in the Presidential election has seriously set back that project.
“It has entrenched Civic Platform as the main opposition grouping.”
Professor Szczerbiak also claimed that despite their loss, Civic Platform are still in a strong position going forward.
Trzaskowski ran Duda much closer than many political experts predicted, garnering 49.6 percent of the vote in the second round.
It means that, despite polls predicting a landslide victory for Duda in April, Law and Justice have failed “to deliver a knockout blow”.
He said: “There’s huge support for the liberal centrists among the built-up towns, urban voters and the better-off voters – and a lot of young people, many of whom Law and Justice have lost.
“It’s got a substantial base of support and controls a lot of assets, including mayors in the larger towns and cities and still has the support of a lot of business elites, and sympathy in the EU political establishment.
“The liberal centrist opposition is still quite formidable.”
In the three years till the next election, Civic Platform will need to prevent Law and Justice from entrenching themselves in power through structural reform in media, local government and the judiciary.
However, Law and Justice will now have to navigate a likely period of economic crisis post-pandemic. The party had run itself on an economic platform of responsible, balanced spending – but this could swiftly come to an end as the country goes into recession.
The Polish opposition cannot be written off – but any resistance to Duda’s conservative government will come from the centre, rather than the left.
Aleks Szczerbiak is Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies at the University of Sussex.
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