Analysis Voices of Europe 2024 | Poland

The paradox of Poland’s drifting centre

The upcoming European Parliament elections in Poland are the third in a series of four elections aimed at reclaiming state institutions from PiS control. A shift towards centrism in voting contrasts with right-wing policies.

Published on 28 March 2024 at 10:59
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In Poland, the upcoming EU Parliament election will be the third of four episodes in a voting season that opened with the parliamentary election in autumn 2023 and will close with the presidential election of spring 2025. At stake in all four campaigns is not just the clawing back of votes from the illiberal Law and Justice party (PiS), which ruled Poland until December 2023. It is the "taking back of the state" – meaning institutions and administrative posts – from PiS's control. The specific programmes of almost all parties are subordinated to this central struggle: Poland's ruling coalition is trying to take back the state, and Law and Justice is trying to keep its grip on it.

In October 2023, PiS won the most votes but lost power. A majority coalition was assembled by the centre-right Civic Coalition, the centre-agrarian Third Way and the New Left party. The declared priority of the new government is to rebuild the rule of law. But the coalition's room for manoeuvre is limited by the president, who is tied to the previous government and can veto laws passed by parliament. April's local elections and June's European elections are therefore only a stage in the building of a new majority necessary to take back the presidency.

The attempt to quell the protests and satisfy the farmers' claims means that the government will have to distance itself from the Green Deal both domestically and in the EU

If the European Parliament elections were held today, the Civic Coalition (which is part of the centre-right European People's Party, EPP) could count on first place and around a third of the votes. Law and Justice (as part of the sovereignist ECR grouping) would be in second place with around a quarter of the votes. Third place would go to either Third Way (EPP plus the liberal Renew bloc), the New Left (S&D, centre-left) or the far-right Confederation (ID). In this scenario the number of Polish MEPs in the EPP and Renew groups would increase, while those in the ECR would decrease. Contrary to the trend in most EU countries, Polish voters today would elect more centrist and fewer right-wing representatives than before.

Yet none of this means that the debate and decisions will now shift towards the centre. Indeed, on specific issues such as the environment or migration, it is more likely that the political centre will gravitate to the right.

Polish farmers up in arms

In Poland as in the EU as a whole, the central political issue of the day is the farmers' protests. Polish farmers are up in arms against the import of produce from Ukraine and against the regulations of the EU Green Deal. Their protests are enjoying a level of public support that is unprecedented since the end of the communist rule in Poland. According to an Ipsos poll for and TOK FM conducted in the last week of February, as many as 78%of Poles support the movement.

They include residents of large cities and supporter…

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