Polish Opposition's Sliding Lead Points to Messy Election Result

  • Surveys show Law & Justice won't win parliamentary majority
  • Party support slips after it tacked away from moderate voters

Poland’s main opposition group Law & Justice is losing support in opinion polls before Oct. 25 general election and will probably have to join forces with other parties to secure the majority it needs to push its social-spending promises through parliament.

Support for the group, which favors more government control over the economy, dropped five percentage points in two weeks to 34 percent, according to an IBRiS survey from Oct. 2-3. With a concurrent two point increase in support for the ruling Civic Platform to 24 percent, Law & Justice is projected to fall 36 seats short of a majority in the 460-member lower house, according to the poll published by Rzeczpospolita daily on Tuesday.

As recently as last month, surveys showed Law & Justice winning a majority after the party promised to reduce the retirement age, tax banks and offer more family benefits. The party has since taken a hard line on allowing refugees into Poland, turned to more negative campaigning about the Civic Platform’s eight-year rule, and its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, one of the country’s least trusted politicians, has stepped up public appearances along with prime-minister candidate Beata Szydlo.

“We are seeing a clear change in the campaign dynamics, and anything is still possible,” Olgierd Annusewicz, a political scientist at Warsaw University, said on Tuesday. “Law & Justice has already taken their victory for granted and taken their less-popular politicians out of the closet. They also appear to have run out of new ideas.”

Parliamentary Math

Law & Justice’s declining popularity is making parliamentary arithmetic more difficult, with a number of smaller parties’ support hovering around the threshold needed to gain representation. The IBRiS poll gives Law & Justice’s coalition 195 seats, Civic Platform 132, the United Left coalition 49, free-market Nowoczesna 37, the anti-establishment Kukiz movement 30 and the co-ruling Peasants Party 17.

The survey shows Law & Justice and Kukiz would need a third partner to form a majority government. The Civic Platform, which has been in government for eight years along with the Peasant Party, would also have to team up with two more parties to stay in power.

Asked about creating an anti-Law & Justice coalition, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said on Tuesday that Civic Platform has to “wait until Oct. 25 to see the balance of power in parliament.”

“I still can’t see anything to prevent Law & Justice from victory in the ballot,” Annusewicz said. “But this election isn’t about who comes first, but how strong the peloton is.”