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The Left Will Decide Poland’s Future

Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party has long been the beneficiary of political infighting among the country's divided opposition parties. But with important local, national, and European elections approaching, an emerging star on the Polish left could soon mount a credible challenge to the country's populists.

WARSAW – On October 21, Poland will hold local elections, which will be followed by the European Parliament elections in May 2019, national parliamentary elections next fall, and a presidential election in May 2020. Taken together, these four elections may be the country’s most important votes since 1989.

As the European Union’s largest former communist state, Poland plays a role analogous to a US “swing state” within the bloc. Its current government, under the Law and Justice (PiS) party, is solidly populist; but there is a broad opposition arrayed against it. The majority of Polish media tend to be more critical than supportive of the PiS government. The judiciary has stood firm against the PiS’s assault on its independence. And corporations and civil-society groups have made their resistance to the PiS known.

Unlike Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński can be beaten domestically. And should that happen, Poland will no longer stand in the way of EU sanctions against the Orbán government’s corrupt and lawless behavior.

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