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Poland votes

by MarekNYC Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 02:04:38 PM EST

Promoted by Jerome. Go see Marek's earlier diary and thread for a good introduction to the Polish political scene.

About thirty million Poles are eligible to vote today. The last week of the campaign was characterized by attacks by  PiS on the PO's ultra-liberal economic program and appeals to the extreme right. In the last couple days the PO counterattacked by slamming PiS over its ties to the radicals.  Both are seeking the floating former SLD voters. In the first case appealing to their fear of right wing economic policies, in the latter their hatred for the extreme right. Recent polls have been very volatile with all showing last weeks massive PO lead shrinking, and at least one putting PiS ahead of the PO.

[Update] PiS (hard right) wins , PO (center-right) second, SLD a distant third (incumbents), LPR and Samoobrona (extremist parties) tied just behind the SLD, PSL (patronage/peasant party) just makes it into parliament.

We'll see what the results are very soon. But over the last week the campaign turned on the question of what scares swing voters more - neo-liberalism or the extreme right. Did the PiS launch their attack on the PO a couple days too early, allowing it time to counterattack? Just how badly will the SLD electoral debacle be? Some  polls show it at above ten percent, others failing to make it into parliament altogether.  In other notable last week news, Poland's probable new leaders have stated that they will scrap PM Marek Belka's plan to withdraw Polish troops from Iraq.  Not a popular position, but unlike in Western European countries, the Iraq war is so far down the list of voters' concerns as to make it politically irrelevant.

In stuff to look for after over the next few weeks:

Will the vicious tit for tat last minute campaigning make it difficult for the PO and PiS to form a government?  

Who gets the Foreign Ministry? The PiS is promising to take it so as to safeguard Polish national interests from potential betrayal by those cosmopolitan traitors of the PO. The PO is saying no way, we can't let those out of control crazies do lasting damage to Poland's relationships with the EU.

What effect, if any, will the parliamentary election results have on the Oct 9 presidential contest? Currently the PO candidate has a massive lead, some analysts are suggesting that if the PO were to win big, the PiS candidate might get a boost from a public wary of giving to much power to the PO.

I'll post results and analysis as it comes in.

See also my previous diary on the subject which gives background information on Poland's political parties and a brief summary of Poland's post-communist political history.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 01:34:18 PM EST
Thanks Marek for this. I was wondering if I'd have to promote your earlier diary, so that settles it. Feel free to update on the front page if necessary, the floor is yours tonight!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 02:06:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yuck. The projectins show PiS with 27.6%, PO with 24.1%, SLD at 11.3%, LPR 10.5%, Samoobrona 10.5%, PSL 5.9%. The SdPL and PD failed to make it into parliament getting 3.2% and 2.7% of the vote respectively.

Turnout was 38.3% (sigh)

by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 02:18:38 PM EST
Forgive an outsider's question:

Does this result imply a minority government, or a coalition? If coalition, what is the likely composition in your judgement?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 02:31:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The government will be a PiS and PO coalition. They have been saying for years now that they would form a government together if they won. And while some PO were saying over the past couple days that if the PiS snuggles up too closely to the extreme right they would reject cooperation, in practice that would be unlikely. They'll have a very solid majority.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 02:35:13 PM EST
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A different set of projections show a slightly narrower PiS win: PiS 28.31, PO 26.41, SLD 11.06, LPR 8.23, Samoobrona 10.20, 5.69.  The nice thing about these results would be the poorer performance of the LPR
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 02:31:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Turnout was 38.3% (sigh)

Ouch... this may be a worse sign than the numbers of the crazies. Maybe a true left-wing party is truly missing for a large part of the electorate?

What were previous turnouts?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 03:58:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On second thought, is that even valid? In Hungary, 50% is the required minimum participation for parliamentary elections.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 03:58:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No minimum. I can't remember previous turnouts offhand but they haven't been too good.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 04:23:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I looked up myself.

Sejm 2001: 46.3%
President 2000: 61.1%
Sejm 1997: 47.9%
President 1995: 64.7%/68.2%
Sejm 1993: 52.1%
Sejm 1991: 43.2%
President 1990: 60.6%/53.4%

Is the President as much more important as these figures would imply?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 27th, 2005 at 09:24:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The president can probably best be described as a very powerful figurehead :) Originally the presidency was designed on the French model. That got watered down over the years. But the president still plays a key role in foreign affairs and defense.  The presidential elections are also simpler in a way, none of that alphabet soup that you get in the parliamentary ones. Also they were often quite symbolic - 1990, first fully free elections (second round was a walkover on Chirac-Le Pen lines), 1995 a symbolic battle between Walesa who had done badly but had his past to support him, and Kwasniewski - dynamic but had his past (the up and coming star of the PZPR who made it to the Politburo in 1988)  But that explanation doesn't work for 2000 where Kwasniewski's reelection was a foregone conclusion.
by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 28th, 2005 at 05:16:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Turnout was 38.3% (sigh)

This might be a reason for the apparent "mood swings". Perhaps, only the right-half of the electorate showed up this time for some reason. There might be some long term party sympathies among voters after all, but each election potential supporters of incumbents have very little enthusiasm.

by das monde on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 08:40:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a little bit of that. Among those who voted in this election only 40% of those who had voted for the SLD in 2001 did so last weekend, 40% of their 2001 score would have given them 16% rather than the 11% they actually ended up with.
by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 28th, 2005 at 05:19:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing I can't help noticing is how most of the new Central/Eastern-European democracies seem to go through these wild mood swings, where you have blow-out majorities on the left and right alternating with more or less every new election. Some questions relating to this:

  • Marek, do you think this is basically the same story in Poland, or is there something in the political system that is favoring blow-out majorities?

  • Also, do you believe that the new right-wing majority will be just as temporary as the previous leftist and rightist majorities, or do you think this one may be here to stay? (I'm asking specifically because your previous diary made it sound to me like the SLD is all but politically bankrupt and has to either find a way to completely renew and reinvent itself or make way for a new center-left party.)

  • Final point: if you buy the "mood swing" picture I sketched above, then are there indications that Polish political culture is beginning to stabilize around a more premanent distribution of power among the various parties?

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 03:43:50 PM EST
  1. Yup, Poland has had alternating landslide victories for the last several elections. Very little party identity among voters combined with difficult times for many.

  2. Way to early to say whether the pattern will continue in the next election. Note that the economy has actually done quite well in 2004 and 2005, the EU membership negotiated by the SLD has proven very popular - yet they just got crushed. That is partly because of economic uncertainty with the continued sky high unemployment (18% official, somewhat lower in reality due to a large gray economy). On the other hand real wages have risen pretty steadily under all governments - they're currently over $700/mo pre-tax, they were around $300/mo in the early nineties. That more or less ok economic picture was counterbalanced by massive corruption and ties to organized crime. The SLD has been crushed before - 1991, 1997 and has risen again, I wouldn't count them out. All attempts to create a non-communist left have failed. There was an attempt at a center-left party in this election with some pretty big names as candidates and it got less than three percent.  Disgruntled SLD leaders tried to create a new vaguely left wing party but after an initial surge they failed to make it over the 5% barrier.

  3. No indication of a stabilization. The polls showed voters lurching all over the place over the past year. Maybe things will stabilize over the next four years - who knows?
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 04:20:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Women: PiS - 29, PO - 27, SLD - 11, LPR - 10, Samoobrona - 7

Men: PiS - 27, PO - 26, SLD - 12, LPR - 7, Samoobrona - 12

Ages 18-39: PO - 34, PiS - 26, Samoobrona - 9,

University grads: PO 38, PiS 25, SLD 13

Rural voters: PiS 25, Samoobrona 20, PO 16

Large urban areas: PO 36, PiS 30, SLD 11

In various demographic groups certain parties are missing. I suspect that once you get below a certain number for these subgroups the poll results get unreliable and are therefore not listed.

by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 04:08:13 PM EST
there's a nice and rather striking set of graphics of the exit poll demographics here:

The party names should be self explanatory if you look at the initials.

The first graph is female (red)/male (blue)

The next one is by age group - PO skews strongly towards the young, SLD and LPR towards the elderly

Third graph is by education - primary school (orange), vocational (green), secondary school (blue), students (yellow), university degree (purple) Note that in Poland you finish high school at age 19 and typically graduate from university in your mid twenties. Current university age people are part of a baby boom generation (gotta do something during martial law :). More seriously, here you get some very sharp differences. If this were up to students and those with  higher education then the PO would have a landslide plurality with a narrow majority of seats and the LPR, Samoobrona and PSL wouldn't be in parliament. On the other hand those with either just an elementary or vocational education gave 40 and 31 percent of their vote to the extremists respectively.

Last graph is by place of residence:
rural (green) town under 50k (blue), city between 50k and 200k (orange), city over 200k (red) Note that you have to be a little insane to vote for the PSL if you live in a city - they're a straight special interest peasant party and make no pretense of having the slightest interest in the welfare of the urban population. Samoobrona does pretend, but it is at its roots a peasant party as well.

Now I don't live in Poland, but most of those I know who do fall into the university educated big city dwelling demographic - not surprising that I don't know any people who vote LPR or Samoobrona. And I doubt any of my peasant relatives would cop to doing so even if they did.

by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 07:06:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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