Europe Poland’s PiS gains in provinces, but support erodes in big cities

Poland’s PiS gains in provinces, but support erodes in big cities

Image result for Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak
Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak

Poland’s ruling eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS) won the majority of seats in provincial assemblies, but it lost in most of the ten biggest cities, final results of Sunday’s regional election showed on Thursday.

The PiS, broadly popular since taking power in 2015, strengthened its position in the assemblies overall, due mainly to support from smaller towns and villages where people have benefited from the government’s welfare reforms.

But support for the PiS in the biggest cities, including in the high-profile race for mayor of Warsaw, has fallen, laying bare divisions in Poland over the party’s democracy record.

The PiS’s control in the regions will ultimately depend on what local agreements it can reach in the assemblies and what political deals the opposition and smaller parties strike.

PiS won 254 out of 552 seats in sixteen provincial assemblies while the biggest opposition coalition secured 194 and the agrarian PSL party took 70, the electoral committee said.

The results also showed that PiS won nine of the 16 assemblies – taking more than half of the seats in six of them – with the opposition taking the remaining seven. The biggest opposition group, which includes Civic Platform, won the majority of seats in just one assembly.

“What is most important to us now is to tie up with those who identify themselves with the local authorities,” Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told public radio on Thursday.

The head of the agrarian PSL has ruled out coalition with PiS, but PiS has signalled it is open to any partnerships.

“We offer honest work for the local communities, the Civic Platform offers an ideological fight with the PiS government. It is up to PSL politicians to chose whether they want to develop local communities or fight with the government,” Blaszczak said.

While still more popular than the centrist opposition around the country overall, the PiS government saw its support decline in the big cities, traditional bastions of liberalism in Poland.

In Warsaw, in a closely-watched race for mayor, the opposition candidate Rafal Trzaskowski, 46, unexpectedly won in the first round, with 56.7 percent of vote, more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.