I present: the guide to Poland’s political parties, by a left-wing American
Poland is this country here, home to delicious pierogi and hard-to-pronounce words.
Their elections matter, because Poland is currently very right-wing, and one of the most outspoken opponents of things like refugees settling in Europe as well as gay rights and women’s rights. Unfortunately, they’ve been the unofficial leader for other right-wing countries’ anti-immigration efforts and anti-LGBT rights, such as Hungary and the Czechia.
Basic facts: the Senate and the Sejm (sounds like “same”) is similar to the US’s Senate and House of Representatives. There’s 100 Senators, 51 to make a majority, and 460 seats in the Sejm— 231 needed for a majority,
Currently, there are five platforms, each made up of different political parties— and those platforms range from the far, far right to the left.
Let’s take a look at what those five platforms believe in:
Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice)
First up is PiS, the right-wing party that curently runs the country. PiS stands for the Polish words for law and justice, prawo i sprawiedliwość. They don’t like gays, immigrants, or the European Union in general, and have been in power since 2015. Andrzej Duda is the president of Poland, and notably was one of the few European leaders who liked Donald Trump.
Let’s look at PiS’s greatest hits!
Giving the government more control over media…
Breaking EU laws! In many ways, including illegal logging of forests and restricting public access to lawmaker’s meetings!
Let’s not forget when they tried to and make abortion even more illegal— already illegal in Poland, unless you’re raped or your life is in danger.
And everyone’s favorite: political scandals!
PiS’s parliamentary speaker quit in August when it turned out he was using a government jet for private trips. Next, a deputy justice minister quit when an investigation showed he’d been spreading rumors about the personal lives of judges who criticized PiS’s reforms to the courts.
PiS’s strategy: bribe voters. No, really. PiS promised to increase retired people’s monthly check, and to raise the minimum wage, right before the 2019 Senate election. (This is in addition to the huge social program, 500 plus, which gives families 500 extra zlotys every month if they have more than one child. That’s right, every month.)
Yes, you can be both right-wing and pro welfare programs. Don’t tell Fox News—or your grandparents.
Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Platform)
Our second runner up is Koalicja Obywatelska, KO, the, uh, centrist / conservative party? They’ve got the second most seats in the Polish Parliament, behind PiS. While they’re not nationalists like PiS and they actually like the EU, they’re still really conservative on a lot of social issues: keeping mandatory Catholic classes in public schools, for example. (I’m not gonna call them ”religious classes” unless there’s an actual choice of religion.)
KO is the party of Donald Tusk, who is now President of the European Council. This party tends to do better in cities than in the countryside, as they’re a little more center than PiS. They were edged out when they neglected to focus on social spending, a big issue.
Interestingly, in this election, this platform also includes the Greens, the environmental party. Like Germany, the Green party is not with the left-wing platform, as they have been in past elections.
So, October’s election will likely come down to PiS and K.O. taking the majority of seats. Both these two parties got the lion’s share of votes in May, for the European parliament election.
So I did mention that Poland has a left wing? Yes, it does. Albeit a small left wing.
Enter: Lewica, the left-wing platform. They’re made up of several political parties: currently, Lewica Razem, or “Left Together” (originally Razem) and Nowa Lewica, or “New Left.”
Nowa Lewcia was created when two left leaning political parties merged— Wiosna, founded by Robert Biedroń, an openly gay Polish politician, and Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (Democratic Left Alliance.) Lewica Razem is currently headed by Adrian Zandberg.
In addition, there are also two other platforms:
Koalicja Polska: means Polish coalition. This is the party of centrists and libertarians. They’re exactly what they say they are: a laundry list of political parties, led by PSL, the Polish People’s Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe.) PSL is mostly concerned with issues concerning farmers, which means this platform gets most of the rural vote.
While PSL is the de facto leader, Kukiz 15 is the most interesting party. Yep, that name sounds like cookies, and was founded by a former rock star, Pawel Kukiz. While the party has recently cut ties with far-right groups, the leader had to apologize to Parliament for getting nationalists elected to Parliament. Good times.
So if PiS is the right-wing, Konfederacja are the far, far right-wing. Which is pretty scary, given how nationalist PiS is. They were recently kicked off of Facebook for spreading vaccine misinformation and hate speech. Good riddance.