Polish opposition leader Tusk declares win after exit poll shows ruling conservatives lose majority

Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister addresses supporters at his party headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. Poland's election result is on a knife edge as an exit poll says that the governing Law and Justice party won the most votes. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Supporters of Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister celebrate on Sunday at his party headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

WARSAW, Poland — Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk declared the beginning of a new era for his country after opposition parties appeared to have won enough votes in Sunday’s parliamentary election to oust the governing nationalist conservative party.

That party, Law and Justice, has bickered with allies and faced accusations of eroding rule of law at home in its eight years in power. It appeared that voters were mobilized like never before, voting in even greater numbers than when the nation ousted the communist authorities in 1989. In some places people were still in line when polling officially closed, but all were allowed to vote.


If the result predicted by an exit poll holds, Law and Justice won but also lost. It got more seats than any other party but not enough to be able to lead a government that can pass laws in the legislature.

The Ipsos exit poll suggested that Law and Justice obtained 200 seats. Its potential partner, the far-right Confederation got 12 seats, a showing the party acknowledged was a defeat.

It also showed that three opposition parties have likely won a combined 248 seats in the 460-seat lower house of parliament, the Sejm. The largest of the groups is Civic Coalition, led by Tusk, a former prime minister and former European Union president. It won 31.6% of votes, the exit poll said.

“I have been a politician for many years. I’m an athlete. Never in my life have I been so happy about taking seemingly second place. Poland won. Democracy has won. We have removed them from power,” Tusk told his cheering supporters.

“This result might still be better, but already today we can say this is the end of the bad time, this is end of Law and Justice rule,” Tusk added.

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski acknowledged the ambiguous result. He told supporters at his headquarters that his party’s result, at nearly 37% of the vote, according to the exit poll, was a success, making it the party to win the most votes for three parliamentary elections in a row.

“We must have hope and we must also know that regardless of whether we are in power or in the opposition, we will implement this (political) project in various ways and we will not allow Poland to be betrayed,” Kaczynski said.

If the result holds, and Law and Justice is the single party with the most seats, then it would most likely get the first chance to try to build a government.

It falls to President Andrzej Duda, who is an ally of Law and Justice, to tap a party to try to form a government.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Polsat News that Duda “will entrust the mission of forming the government to the winning party and in this first step we will certainly try to build a parliamentary majority.”

Three opposition parties, Tusk’s Civic Coalition, Third Way and the New Left, ran on separate tickets but with the same promises of seeking to oust Law and Justice and restore good ties with the European Union.

Wlodzimierz Czarzasty, a leader of the Left party, vowed to work with the others to “create a democratic, strong, reasonable and predictable government.”

Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz, the head of election campaign for Third Way, called it a “huge day for our democracy.”

Votes were still being counted and the state electoral commission says it expects to have final results by Tuesday morning.

At stake are the health of the nation’s constitutional order, its legal stance on LGBTQ+ rights and abortion, and the foreign alliances of a country that has been a crucial ally to Ukraine.

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