WARSAW, Poland (Reuters) – Poland’s eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS) claimed victory on Sunday in a watershed election that risks putting the ex-communist state on a collision course with key European Union allies.
Run by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of Poland’s late president Lech Kaczynski, PiS secured 37.7 per cent of the vote, just enough to govern alone and well ahead of the incumbent, staunchly pro-EU Civic Platform (PO) at 23.6 per cent, said pollster IPSOS, based on 90 per cent of election committees.
If the exit poll is correct, the victory for PiS would be the biggest in terms of seats by a single party since Poland held free elections after shedding communism in 1989 – marking a decisive swing to its brand of social conservatism mixed with left-leaning economics in the country of 38 million people.
A triumphant Kaczynski, whose party immediately signalled plans to reap new revenues from next year with a tax on bank assets, declared victory.
“We will not kick those who have fallen … We need to show that Polish public life can be different,” Kaczynski told jubilant supporters at his party headquarters in central Warsaw.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz of PO conceded defeat.
Poland has seen its economy, the largest in ex-communist central Europe, expand by nearly 50 per cent in the last decade, with the pro-market Civic Platform focussing on trying to make the most of EU aid and combining green field investment with fiscal prudence.
But pockets of poverty and economic stagnation remain, and PiS was able to exploit growing frustration in some areas that the spoils of economic success are not more evenly shared.
Distrustful of the EU and an advocate of a strong NATO stance in dealing with Moscow, PiS opposes joining the euro zone any time soon and promises more welfare spending on the poor.
It also wants to enshrine more Roman Catholic values in law, reflecting the party’s deeply socially conservative stance.
Two new parties appeared to have won seats in parliament. The liberal, pro-market Nowoczesna, led by former World Bank economist Ryszard Petru, was seen winning 7.7 per cent of the vote.
Kukiz’15, an anti-establishment grouping led by rock star Pawel Kukiz, looked set to secure 8.7 per cent of votes.
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