Poland's varied post-election political landscape

A second round of local elections in Poland has finalised the shape of governments for the coming four years. The vote saw the governing conservatives lose the Warsaw mayor's office to the country's biggest opposition party while outside Warsaw the result was mixed. The conservatives scored poorly in several major cities, but had a strong showing in smaller towns and rural areas. Slawek Szefs has this review of Poland's political landscape one week after the vote.

Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz,  photo: CTK
In the majority, the local elections for village and small town mayors as well as large city presidents have been victorious for independent candidates. Looking at nominees of individual parties, the winner in the village and small town category has been the Peasant Party (PSL), while Law and Justice (PiS) and the Civic Platform (PO) scored similar successes in big agglomerations. The State Electoral Commission announced the turnout to be slightly under 40%.

Sociology professor Andrzej Rychard from Warsaw University says the final election results give ground for optimism to be displayed by all sides of the local government contest.

RYCHARD: "These elections may be viewed at different levels, so the discussion on who won and who lost can be a long one, because each party can point to examples of relative success.'"

Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz,  photo: CTK
The most prestigious race for the presidency of Warsaw has been won by opposition candidate Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz from the Civic Platform. She received close to 54% of the vote, coming 6 points ahead of Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, former Prime Minister and rival representing Law and Justice. The scales had been most probably tipped by supporters of Marek Borowski, the joint left wing candidate who gained a surprising 22% in the first round in Warsaw two weeks ago. Both final contenders had appealed to Borowski and his electorate for support in the second round. This response, which led to the victory of the opposition's Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, stood behind the emotional statement made by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and applauded by his Law and Justice members.

KACZYNSKI: "On one side, we have Law and Justice..... on the other, there's the Civic Platform alliance with the post Communist left. We have former president Kwasniewski in the front ranks, again. The old guard and their order is returning. We have to oppose this!"

Oskar Chomicki from the Poland in Europe Foundation says this shows the ever present threat of left wing forces felt by the Law and Justice leader.

CHOMICKI: "He has put himself in a rather hopeless direction, because he has always stressed the need to eradicate the evil in Polish politics and life. This kind of policy that he's been pursuing over the past year, has not met with enthusiasm on the part of the population at large. His pessimism, his devilish attitude towards anything that's happening in Poland has not gained any spectacular success."

The example of Warsaw shows clearly that the voters had been confronted with a choice between political groupings rather than individual candidates and their programs. Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, president-elect of the capital, says this is not a good solution in local elections.

GRONKIEWICZ: "Local elections should be mainly connected with solving the problems of certain communities. But in the case of Warsaw it was always a bit different, being a competition among parties. I do hope that our program, the program of the Civic Platform, is much better for the citizens as we would like to cooperate with NGOs, which was not the case before."

There have already been examples of constructive cooperation of opposing parties at local government level, despite strong emotions, like the words of the Prime Minister. And not without reason, reminds Oskar Chomicki.

CHOMICKI: "Polish people do not like such attitude, in general. They would prefer to have some peace and quiet instead of instigating quarrels and rows."

May this opinion prove prophetic for the sake of much needed cooperation, to make daily life easier for Polish people in the next four years.