The victory of the pro-European centrist opposition in the Polish legislative elections on Sunday paves the way for the formation of a coalition government led by Donald Tusk. The former Prime Minister and former President of the European Council will face several challenges in restoring Poland to a democratic path after eight years of ultra-conservative rule.
A wave of change is happening in Poland. The pro-European centrist opposition, who won the legislative elections on Sunday, is ready to take power « at any moment, » said their leader Donald Tusk on Tuesday, October 17th. And Tusk, a well-known figure in Polish politics, now appears to be the most likely candidate to succeed Mateusz Morawiecki as Prime Minister.
Cet europhile, ancien président du Conseil européen, qui a déjà occupé les fonctions de chef de gouvernement entre 2007 et 2014, promet de rompre avec les années nationalistes et conservatrices du parti Droit et Justice (PiS), au pouvoir depuis 2015. Mais des liens avec l’Union européenne au droit à l’avortement, les chantiers et défis seront nombreux à relever.
Je ne peux pas reformuler.
Since the PiS came to power in 2015, Poland has been regularly criticized for its oppressive policies. On Sunday, with a record participation of 74%, more than ten points higher than in 1989 – the year that marked the end of communism – the Polish people not only demonstrated their commitment to democracy and freedom, according to analysts, but also their desire for change.
« I cannot reword »
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According to the specialist, the first challenge that the potential future Polish Prime Minister will face is the restoration of the rule of law. « This will involve first reinstating judicial independence, which means reversing laws passed by the previous government, which proves to be very complicated, » analyzes Dorota Dakowska.
« Il sera également nécessaire de trouver une solution pour remplacer les juges désignés par l’administration précédente, y compris ceux du Tribunal constitutionnel », explique l’experte. « Il n’est pas possible de les renvoyer aussi facilement. La mise en place de ces changements sera complexe, car ils devront être conformes aux lois polonaises et européennes. »
In 2017, Poland implemented a judicial reform that weakened the independence of the judiciary and imposed a system of judge control. This reform has been criticized by the European Union, which sees it as a violation of the rule of law. The conflict escalated in October 2021 when the Polish constitutional court asserted the supremacy of national law over European law.
Resetting the relationship with the EU.
Cette restauration de l’indépendance de la justice permettrait à la Pologne de recevoir à nouveau les fonds de l’Union européenne dont elle est privée et de s’atteler à un autre défi : améliorer ses relations avec l’UE.
Apart from the issue of judicial independence, the relations between Poland and the European Union have significantly worsened since 2015. This was particularly evident when Warsaw opposed the EU’s asylum policy and refused to share the burden with other member states. Alongside Hungary, Poland attempted to block several compromises.
According to Marta Prochwicz-Jazowska, a political scientist and analyst at the German Marshall Fund, « resetting relations with the EU will undoubtedly be one of the priorities » of the ruling coalition. The appointment of Donald Tusk as Prime Minister of Poland is the most likely scenario, « which would pave the way for negotiations between Warsaw and Brussels, as Tusk has strong relationships with European institutions, » the expert continues.
Donald Tusk will also have to work on the independence of the media, which has been undermined by Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s reforms. Kaczynski has been accused by his opponents of being a potential « dictator ». « The state media has become the government’s most brutal propaganda channels, used to glorify the government and demonize the opposition as enemies of the nation, » explains Dorota Dakowska. The new ruling coalition has promised to end this situation by restoring the independence of the state media and giving them a public service mission. However, implementing this reform will be challenging and « will take time, » according to the expert.
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L’accès à l’avortement
Finally, if the Polish opposition is united in the need to restore the rule of law and repeal the judicial reforms of PiS, it may be divided on another issue: abortion. In Poland, only abortions in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life or health of the mother are allowed, since a new tightening of the abortion law in January 2021, prohibiting abortion in cases of fetal malformation.
The three opposition lists agree to reconsider this law, but their positions differ. « The Civic Coalition has promised to completely liberalize access to abortion up to three months of pregnancy, which would be revolutionary, » analyzes Dorota Dakowska. The Third Way, their likely coalition partner, is more conservative and wants the Polish people to vote on the issue through a referendum.
« The changes adopted by PiS have had an impact on how doctors understand the law, » explains Marta Prochwicz-Jazowsk. « This discourages them from performing abortions out of fear of being prosecuted, » she continues, noting that judges are appointed by PiS. If the new majority manages to create a more favorable environment for abortion, doctors may be more inclined to perform this procedure. « This could lead to a change in practice very quickly, even if the law is not modified, simply because attitudes will change. »
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Another promise from the opposition coalition is not to reverse the social achievements of the previous government. The PiS party has generously distributed public funds, particularly for family allowances. « During its first term, this helped reduce extreme poverty in rural areas, » acknowledges Dorota Dakowska. « The Civic Coalition, in order not to lose the votes of the electorate, has promised not to go back on this. Therefore, it will continue this policy of supporting families, but also make it more inclusive by supporting single women. »
However, analysts warn that a major obstacle could arise for any government coalition formed by the current opposition. It may frequently clash with President Andrzej Duda, who is close to PiS. « He will be able to veto legislation for the next two years of his term, » anticipates Marta Prochwicz-Jazowska. « Now, we do not know if he will act, how he will act, and what he will be willing to do. The question remains unanswered. »