Record turnout in local Polish elections
While rural areas and smaller towns showed strong support for the ruling party, big cities stayed with the opposition.
Democracy was alive and well in Poland last Sunday as Poles exercised their right to vote, resulting in the highest nationwide turnout in the history of local elections in post-communist Poland at over 54.96 percent, as well as a new mayor for Warsaw. Rafał Trzaskowski of the Civic Coalition (CC), an alliance between the Civic Platform (PO) and Nowoczesna (Modern) parties, beat challenger Patryk Jaki of Law & Justice (PiS) in the capital’s mayoral election outright by 56.67 percent to 28.53 percent, avoiding a second round. The National Electoral Commission officially announced the results on Wednesday, but winners celebrated their victories after the polls closed based on the exit poll conducted by Ipsos research group.
Over 30 million Poles were eligible to vote to elect nearly 47,000 district, county and provincial councillors and close to 2,500 district heads and town and city mayors. After citizens rushed to the polls on Sunday, political advisor Krzysztof Szczerski said in an interview with Polish public radio that “Poles are still willing to vote, as they believe that democracy has been blooming in Poland, and this is the best proof.” According to PKW, this year’s local elections were also record-breaking in terms of women’s participation – both on electoral lists and among voters. Women accounted for 18 percent of registered candidates for the highest positions in office, compared to 16 percent in 2014 and women constituted the majority of voters at 51.9 percent.
This year, the right-wind Law and Justice (PiS) party passed the first test of support since it came into power in the 2015 parliamentary elections with a total 46 percent of provincial assembly votes while the Civic Platform-Nowoczesna Civic Coalition (CC) secured 35 percent, according to the official results and has opened coalition talks with the third strongest group – the agricultural Polish People’s Party (PSL). Out of the 16 provinces, PiS won the majority with nine province assemblies while the Civic Coalition won seven.
Away from Warsaw, CC candidates celebrated wins in other major Polish cities – Hanna Zdanowska (CC) was re-elected as the mayor of Łódź, Jacek Jaśkowiak (CC) won again in Poznań, Jacek Sutryk (CC) won in Wrocław, and Marcin Krupa (Local Government Forum) was re-elected in Katowice. Run off elections for mayoral positions will be necessary in some cities, including Gdańsk and Kraków where no candidate took 50 percent of the vote in the first round.