>Polish elections: Polarization sends Civic Platform to victory


So, ‘early’ (actually much delayed) exit polls suggest, Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) has been clobbered by the market liberal-conservative modernisers of Civic Platform (OP), predicted to clock-up a huge 43-45% of the vote compared to a mere low thirtysomething for PiS. If true, OP might even be able to form a single party majority government, although thinking back to how wrong the Czech exit polls were last year Donald Tusk would do well to put the champagne on ice and start thinking about who potential coalition partners might be. With the exception of the Peasant Party, all the usual minor parties (Self-Defence, League of Polish Families etc) seem to have been wiped out, with niche parties that interested me so much (Women’s Party, Pensioners’ Party etc) not getting a look in. The Polish post-communist left, however, seems set to demonstrate its usual resilience in the face of defeat and establish itself a medium-sized third force. However, the numbers actually shape up what is striking is how very polarised these elections are despite the presence of a PR electoral system in theory reasonably conducive to small parties – a tendency also very visible in Czech elections last year and, of course, long established in Hungary whose mixed half PR/half-first past-the-post system offers strong incentives for two-party/bloc politics. An additional factor may be the role of the media in ‘presidentializing’ and polarising party politics. The Tusk-Kaczynski TV debate (which Tusk won convincingly) appears to have played a major role in outcome both in the sense of exlaining who won and in reflecting and reinforcing a sense that the election was basically a two horse race. The Czech series of pre-election Paroubek-Topolánek TV duels last year, althought there was no clear winner, seems to have had the same polarizing effect,boosting the two main parties’ vote at the expense of more minor playes

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