Poland's Law and Justice party gains majority in parliament, with 235 seats

WARSAW, Poland – The right-wing and anti-migrant Law and Justice party has won a majority of seats in Poland’s parliament and can govern alone, the state election authority announced on Tuesday.

The party got 235 seats in the 460-seat lower house of Poland’s parliament and also won a majority in the Senate — the strongest position any single party has ever enjoyed in post-communist Poland to reshape the nation according to its visions.

For Law and Justice, which also has the backing of President Andrzej Duda, that means advocating a combination of Catholic conservative moral policies and increasing state intervention in the economy to help families and the poor. The party also took a strong anti-migrant stand during the election campaign, criticizing the outgoing ruling party, Civic Platform, for agreeing to accept some 7,000 refugees as part of a European Union resettlement plan.

EU President Donald Tusk, who was prime minister of Poland in a Civic Platform government between 2007 and 2014, says the main task of the new government will be to dispel concerns abroad that its policies will be anti-European.

“But let’s not exaggerate with those concerns,” Tusk said. “We must have contacts with the winners because this is true democracy at work.”

In foreign politics, Law and Justice says it wants to protect Poland’s business and economic interests. Among other things that means developing own industries rather than buying foreign products, or rejecting EU climate policies, which the party says are hurting Poland’s economic development. It is not clear if it will back a second term for Tusk, a political foe, at the EU’s helm.

Some observers say that under the new government Poland could veer toward an isolated, nationalist state like Hungary under Prime Minister Victor Orban.

But political analyst Kazimierz Kik says the policy to strengthen Poland will benefit the EU, not hurt it.

“The majority of Poles are not anti-European and a destructive policy would not be supported here,” Kik said. “The case of Orban will not be repeated in Warsaw because Warsaw is at a more central place in Europe.”

The party vows to put higher taxes on large international corporations and banks while doing more to help smaller Polish businesses and families. For instance, it promised monthly family cash bonuses for children and wants free medications for people over 75.

It has also promised to reverse the outgoing government’s rise of the retirement age to 67 years, which was deeply unpopular. It has said it would go back to 60 years for women and 65 for men.

Critics say its spending plans will harm the state finances, but Law and Justice argues it will fund its social programs with more efficient tax collection and higher taxes on large supermarkets and banks, most of which are foreign-owned.

Four other parties won seats in parliament: Civic Platform, the pro-market party that governed Poland for the last eight years, won 138 seats; a group led by anti-establishment rock star Pawel Kukiz got 42; Modern, a party led by a pro-business economist, Ryszard Petru, got 28 seats, and the agrarian Polish Peoples Party won 16.

Duda had indicated he would proceed with convening the new parliament and designating the new prime minister as soon as the allocation of parliament seats is known.

Some party members say they want the new government to be in place by mid-November.

Law and Justice won 37.6 per cent of the votes in Sunday’s voting. It also won 61 out of 100 seats in the Senate, which has the power to amend or reject legislation.