Parliamentary elections in Poland: a lesson for Georgian political parties and an example for Georgian voters

, by Erekle Gozalishvili

Parliamentary elections in Poland: a lesson for Georgian political parties and an example for Georgian voters

The parliamentary elections in Poland were held on October 15, 2023. These elections were of significant importance for the country. Poland was governed by the Euro-sceptical, conservative-nationalist, and populist party “Law and Justice (PiS)” for the last eight years under the leadership of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which has distanced Poland from the European Union. In the current elections, the centre-left “Civic Platform” (30.7%), led by Donald Tusk, the former Prime Minister of Poland and former President of the European Council, emerged as the main challenger to PiS. Opposition parties that have joined forces and have the potential to cooperate with Tusk’s dominance are “The Third Way” (14.4%) and “The Left” (8.61%).

In the process of forming a coalition, the three parties mentioned above are expected to obtain a majority in the Polish Sejm, with 248 out of 460 mandates, which should be sufficient for creating the government. This contrasts with the ultra-conservative “Confederation” party (7.16%), which had the least support among parties that entered the Polish Sejm and lacks the necessary resources to form a coalition with PiS.

The election campaign in Poland and similar events in Georgia

In Poland, the election campaign was extremely polarised. Parties used the language of hatred towards each other, created each other’s enemy image, and the media contributed to polarisation. PiS also used administrative resources, including increasing social benefits for the population, where the party leaders Jarosław Kaczyński and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated that if the opposition won the elections, the pension age would increase, and similar benefits would be reduced. They also portrayed opposition as an ‘EU Agent’ in a negative context. Furthermore, PiS painted the opposition as a threat to Poland and its traditions, with party leaders accusing the opposition of selling out Polish sovereignty and endangering the protection of sexual minorities’ rights and women’s rights.

The Polish electoral period and its current situation closely resemble Georgian elections, where a similar high level of polarisation and the use of administrative resources resulted in a significant level of polarisation. Apart from this, in Poland, as in Hungary, there were Referendum 4 issues, which mainly supported the propaganda of the ruling party. These questions targeted illegal migrants, the protection of pension age, the protection of sexual minorities’ rights, and the sale of land to foreigners, which significantly mobilised their electoral base. The opposition boycotted the referendum, and as a result, less than 50% of the voters participated, making it illegitimate. Taking into account that the ruling party of Georgia, “Georgian Dream” cooperates with Eurosceptic parties, especially the Hungarian Fidesz, it is likely that it will also try to mobilise its own voters and polarise the electoral environment in 2024 with similar populist referendums.

Inevitable coalition government in Poland: why is it important for Georgian political parties?

Despite the fact that Donald Tusk managed to bring three opposition parties together and achieve a combined 54% of the vote, it remains uncertain how a coalition government will be formed. For the time being, given that President Andrzej Duda represents PiS, the process will likely continue procedurally until the end of the year, potentially giving Kaczyński’s team a chance to either peel off some of Tusk’s partners’ individual deputies or to establish a coalition with one of the parties.

However, this is all a matter of timing and procedure. Most importantly, a precedent has been set in Poland that a coalition government is inevitable, with PiS likely to move into opposition, and 3 parties led by Donald Tusk to form a liberal coalition government. There is an alternative and relatively sceptical point of view, although according to this opinion, PiS will not be able to make unilateral decisions, will create a coalition and will have to cooperate with other parties.

This development is also significant for Georgian opposition parties, as Georgia’s parliamentary elections in 2024 are fully proportional and include a 5% threshold. The coordination and mutual agreement of Polish political parties is noteworthy because it could serve as an example of how to form a correct coalition, facilitating the entry of these parties into parliament and emphasising correct accents. With all these considerations, it is expected that Georgian political parties will be particular to the coordination and agreements among Polish parties, as they are crucial to gaining the most important political subjects’ support after the elections. Since PiS, with the highest number of votes, is not able to gain a majority in the coalition, forming a coalition and sharing power with other parties is imperative.

Also, the role of small parties in this process is noteworthy, since it depends on them how the future government of Poland will be composed and with whom they will form a coalition. There is a similar situation in Georgia, under the conditions of which, in the form of “United National Movement” and”Georgian Dream", there are two such parties that will definitely overcome the 5% barrier, although probably none of them will be able to win alone. Consequently, the results of the Polish elections are particularly noteworthy for the smaller parties, as this can be an example that, with proper coordination, it is possible for them to turn out to be the most important political entities after the elections. Because without them it will be impossible to form a government.

In addition to the above, the role of smaller parties in this process is noteworthy, as they can indeed influence how the future government of Poland is formed and who they ally with in a coalition. Today’s situation, as per the current circumstances, can serve as an example where smaller parties, specifically those with similar “national unity” and “Georgian identity” positions, will definitely have a prominent role. In this context, correct coordination and communication strategies with other parties that make the population easily distinguish between the parties and allow them to actively participate in processes that represent the highest political activity and the right legitimacy of the elections are paramount. Additionally, the parliamentary elections in Poland in 2023 also demonstrate the strategies of political parties for cooperation and communication with the electorate, which can make it easier for them to differentiate themselves from other parties, as well as actively engage in processes that represent the highest political activity and the right legitimacy of elections.

Moreover, the 2023 elections in Poland also show the political parties’ strategies for relations with the voters and correct communication, which made it easy for the population to see the difference between the parties, and therefore they were actively involved in the processes, which led to high political activity and therefore high legitimacy of the elections.

Why are Polish elections an example for Georgian voters?

Poland’s parliamentary elections in 2023 reaffirmed that the participation of voters is crucial in determining the direction of a country’s legislative and executive power. Voter turnout in the elections was around 73%, which is significantly higher than the 2019 parliamentary elections being 11% higher. If we compare this trend to Georgia, we can see that in 2016, voter turnout was only 51%, while in 2020, it increased to approximately 56%. These indicators point to the passivity of Georgian voters, which leads to less representativeness of the legislative and executive authorities and also raises questions about the quality and legitimacy of the elections. This also increases the degree of polarisation to some extent.

Thus, for Georgian political parties, the Polish elections are a good example of how in a polarised environment, under the conditions of proper coordination and cooperation, such a result can be achieved, which leads to the creation of a coalition government and a better representation of the will of the voters. The example of Poland also shows the advantage of coalition government, which is manifested by the commitment of parties to cooperate with each other and a better representation of the population’s choice in the executive and legislative bodies. In addition, it is necessary to actively involve voters in the political process and participate in elections, in which politicians and parties themselves have an important role. It is them who have to choose the right political messages for their voters and especially for those people who do not participate in the elections, because their high participation increases the possibility of forming a coalition government and more representative elections.

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