Poland's early election - an uncertain outcome?

Lawmakers from the ruling Law and Justice party reacts after a vote to dissolve the parliament during the chamber's session in Warsaw. The parliament decided to cut short its term, photo: CTK

In five weeks time, two years earlier than scheduled, the Polish people elect a new Parliament. Opinion polls show it's going to be a close-run event between the two main parties. So is Poland in for a repeat of the scenario of two years ago when no party gained enough votes to form a majority government?

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski , center, reacts after a vote to dissolve the parliament during the chamber's session in Warsaw. The parliament decided to cut short its term, photo: CTK
The announcement by the Speaker of the House that the Parliament had dissolved itself was followed by long cheers from almost all sides. Only 54 deputies from the smaller parties voted against the dissolution, a move which the opposition described as the capitulation of the conservative government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Surprisingly to many people, opinion polls show his Law and Justice party running neck-and-neck with the liberal Civic Platform. Political analysts here agree that prime minister Kaczynski came out of the blocks faster than his opponents, managing to present the dissolution of the Parliament as an act of his courage rather than the failure of his cabinet.

Comparisons with the 2005 elections are inevitable. At that time, the conservatives portrayed themselves as the advocates of a Poland of solidarity who will weed out corrupt networks, and the rival Civic Platform - as the liberals whose policies were to benefit the rich. This year Poles choose from the same two major parties by label but they know what the Law and Justice government looked like. And so they know instance, as Marcin Sobczyk of Interfax Central Europe in Warsaw stresses, that the anti-corruption drive is among Law and Justice's central themes.

Lawmakers from the ruling Law and Justice party reacts after a vote to dissolve the parliament during the chamber's session in Warsaw. The parliament decided to cut short its term, photo: CTK
"They know that the fight against corruption will continue. They don't have to guess that it will start. We also see certain developments on the foreign policy front that we weren't made aware of two years ago. Now we've had examples that the strong rhetoric towards Russia and Germany is also likely to continue. This will appeal more to the rightist voter than two years ago because two years ago the voter who supported such concepts would probably choose the far right League of Polish Families."

How can one describe supporters of the liberal Civic Platform, which two years ago was narrowly defeated by Law and Justice? Jacek Kucharczyk of the Institute of Public Affairs.

"The person who is religious, a practicing Catholic but a bit skeptical about mixing religion with public affairs, rather conservative in general but at the same time rather happy about Polish transition and membership in the E.U. I don't think that economic liberalism plays a major role in the mindset of a Civic Platform voter."

It may indeed appear as a paradox of the political scene in Poland that in spite of the instability and scandals of the past two years, as well as allegations that prime minister Kaczynski used the secret services and the justice ministry to eliminate his former coalition partners from politics, Law and Justice is doing very well in the polls. Marcin Sobczyk explains.

"I think the country likes the fact that the leadership of that party very intelligently addresses the concerns of a large group of citizens who were abandoned by the previous governments and political parties in the 1990s. Their concerns were not addressed because they were not seen as valuable in terms of political support. Now the ruling party is addressing the concerns of the people who live in provincial regions and who believe that they have been hit by the post-1989 transition."

There is much to indicate that early parliamentary election will not bring lasting political stability. A left-wing alliance which includes ex-communists and former anti-communist Solidarity activists is almost sure to come third in the election. The trouble is that - at this stage at least - it is an unlikely coalition partner for either of the two main players.