kisliowski9_Mateusz WlodarczykNurPhoto via Getty Images_kaczynski Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Poland’s Ruling Party Lost, but Will It Leave?

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, in power since 2015, has signaled that it is unlikely to leave gracefully after a much-anticipated parliamentary election denied it a majority. For the European Union, as well as NATO, such an anti-democratic turn in Warsaw is a nightmare scenario – but it need not happen.

WARSAW – The extraordinary victory of the democratic opposition in Poland’s election raises the specter of a looming constitutional crisis. Like former US President Donald Trump or former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party may refuse to concede.

This is not just doom-and-gloom speculation. After the polls closed and the result was clear, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński greeted his supporters on Sunday night by declaring, “We have won the parliamentary election! The third in a row!” What followed was even more ominous: Poland, Kaczyński warned, faced “days of fighting, or tensions of various sorts.”

A series of recent developments in Warsaw increases the risk of a seemingly unthinkable escalation in the coming days and weeks. Five days before the election, Poland’s armed forces chief of staff and his operational commander resigned for undisclosed reasons. Staunch PiS loyalists of questionable competence swiftly replaced both.