Poland’s conservative opposition is poised to win Sunday’s general election, according to final polls which suggest that its welfare promises and anti-refugee rhetoric have helped clinch a hefty lead over the governing centrists.
Analysts however also insist the departure last year of centrist leader Donald Tusk to the post of EU council president left his struggling Civic Platform (PO) in the lurch, paving the way for a Law and Justice (PiS) party victory after eight years in opposition.
The PiS scored between 32-40 percent support among voters in surveys released Friday, well ahead of the 24-28 percent for Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz’s PO.
Even if controversial PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski fails to secure the majority, 231 seats, he needs to govern alone, analysts insist the 66-year-old former premier will easily find MPs from smaller parties willing to join his government, without formally entering into a coalition.
“Kaczynski is sure to win and even if he doesn’t manage a majority he will sweep up MPs from smaller parties,” Warsaw-based political analyst Eryk Mistewicz told AFP.
Punk rocker Pawel Kukiz, whose May presidential bid scored a surprise 20 percent support, could steer his anti-establishment Kukiz’15 party into parliament. Analysts tip it to br PiS’s most likely partner.
Warsaw University political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska also points to the PSL farmers’ party — the PO’s junior coalition partner in the outgoing administration — as another possible PiS ally.
– Puppet-master –
“After eight years in opposition Kaczynski is making a big comeback,” said Mistewicz, adding that “one of the main reasons is because Donald Tusk is missing from Polish politics.”
With growth in this EU member pegged at 3.5 percent this year and next and joblessness below 10 percent, the PO can boast sound economic management.
But after Tusk left “the PO failed to turn its successes into political capital” said Materska-Sosnowska.
The party also never recovered from a 2014 eavesdropping scandal that discredited key government ministers who were also star members.
According to Mistewicz “PiS won the campaign battle on Twitter and Facebook.”
“If Tusk were still on the scene, PO could have held onto the presidency and would be on its way to a victory today. Tusk has extraordinary political skill. I call it ‘Tusk’s Radar’.”
Regarded himself as a skilled political puppet-master, Kaczynski scored a resounding victory in May’s presidential election when he floated political greenhorn Andrzej Duda, who easily beat incumbent and long-time PO ally Bronislaw Komorowski.
Now Kaczynski has put forward Duda’s campaign manager, Beata Szydlo, for prime minister.
The 52-year-old coal miner’s daughter and MP is wooing voters with populist promises of lower taxes and generous spending.
Kaczynski has meanwhile played up fears linked to the EU’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.
He claimed refugees were bringing “cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna, various types of parasites” in comments that critics said recalled the Nazi era.
Poland should financially support EU efforts to tackle the crisis, but not take in refugees, he says. Surveys show nearly 60 percent of Poles share his views.
When PiS last held power in 2005-7 when Kaczynski governed in tandem with his twin brother, the late president Lech Kaczynski.
That period was marked by internal political turmoil triggered by their combative style and international tensions brought on by their eurosceptic and anti-Russian views.
Lech Kaczynski died in a presidential jet crash in Smolensk, eastern Russia, in 2010.
Other parties that could enter parliament include the United Left, the Nowoczesna (Modern) liberals, the libertarian Korwin group and leftist Razem (Together).
A campaign blackout comes into effect Friday midnight before Sunday voting from 0600-2000 GMT.