Poles vote in parliamentary election as polls point to status quo

Poles elect a new parliament on Sunday as the governing socially conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) seeks to maintain its outright majority in the lower house while opposition parties hope for an upset and a broad anti-PiS government.

Poles select 460 lawmakers for the Sejm, the lower house and main legislative body, as well as 100 members of the Senate, an oversight and review chamber.

PiS was the clear leader in opinion polls ahead of the Sunday ballot and is expected to win between 40 and 49 per cent of the vote, which could potentially give it an outright majority in the lower house.

The main opposition forces – the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Christian Democrat agrarian Polish People’s Party (PSL) – hope in turn that their combined support can top that of PiS, allowing them to form a coalition government.

The common denominator of the opposition is a pro-EU stance and a pledge to undo controversial broad institutional reforms introduced by PiS in the last four years, including in the judiciary, which put the country at loggerheads with the European Commission.

Polling stations open at 7 am (0500 GMT) and are scheduled to close at 9 pm, when the first exit polls are expected to be published.

Five major political forces have been registered to participate in Poland’s parliamentary election scheduled for Sunday.

1) Law and Justice (PiS) is a social conservative party, in power since 2015. Its candidates include members of smaller right-wing parties United Poland (Solidarna Polska) and Agreement (Porozumienie).

The social conservative party has been in power since 2015. Its candidates include members of smaller right-wing parties United Poland (Solidarna Polska) and Agreement (Porozumienie).

Platform: PiS focuses on social benefits, saying it is the only party that can guarantee the monthly payment to families of 500 zloty (125 dollars) per child and prevent the retirement age from being increased.

They have announced a significant increase in the minimum wage, a permanent annual bonus pension payment (two payments in 2021) and plans to make EU farm subsidies for Polish farmers equal to subsidies received by farmers in western EU countries.

PiS also presents itself as the defender of traditional Catholic values against what it calls “LGBT ideology.”

2) Civic Coalition (KO) is an electoral alliance (subject to an 8 per cent parliamentary representation threshold) comprising the centrist party Civic Platform (PO), the pro-business party Modern (Nowoczesna), the liberal party Polish Initiative and the Greens.

It promises to reduce labour costs and introduce state-funded cash bonuses for employees, an attempt to differentiate itself from the PiS social spending programmes where being employed is not a prerequisite. But it is also saying that those programmes will remain.

KO is proposing stipends for young doctors to encourage them to stay in the country.

The party is also vowing to push for ending the gender pay gap and introducing free in vitro fertilization procedures as well as additional benefits for pensioners and carers of disabled persons.

3) Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) is a left wing bloc.

While running as single party, and subject to a 5 per cent electoral threshold, SLD is in fact an electoral alliance of three left-wing groupings: SLD, Spring (Wiosna) and Left Together (Lewica Razem).

Platform: The Left proposes to speed up the country’s energy transformation into renewable energy and strengthen environmental protection.

The bloc wants to increase health care spending to 7.2 per cent of gross domestic product (from some 5 per cent at present) and research and development spending to 2 per cent of GDP.

They are running on a proposal allowing abortion on demand until the 12th week of pregnancy, state refunds for contraceptives and civil unions.

They want to introduce a nationwide programme for building nurseries, kindergartens and hospitals. They have promised to reintroduce bus services to every municipality and train services to every county.

4) The Polish People’s Party (PSL) is a centrist, agrarian, Christian Democrat party. Its candidates include members of the populist anti-establishment political movement Kukiz’15, led by former rock star Pawel Kukiz.

Platform: PSL’s main proposals include abolishing the income tax on pensions, making social insurance optional for private entrepreneurs and subsidizing down payments on apartments for families.

It also vows to increase subsidies for farmers. The party wants to change the country’s electoral system through the introduction of first-past-the-post constituencies in the lower house election, public referendums with results that are binding for state authorities and direct election of a number of state officials, including the prosecutor general.

5) Confederation Freedom and Independence (Konfederacja) is a nationalist, right-wing party with radical libertarian views.

Platform: Confederation presents itself as the only anti-establishment choice.

It proposes abolishing the income tax in its current form and making social insurance optional for each citizen, while radically reducing state spending.

The party wants to significantly lower taxes imposed on petrol. The party claims that such changes would boost the economy.

They could also make it into parliament, with polls estimating 4-to-7-per-cent support, but due to its radical views it has very limited potential to form coalitions. (dpa/NAN)

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