The Return of Jarosław Kaczyński

WARSAW – Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS) party is back in power, after receiving 37.6% of the vote in last weekend’s general election and soundly defeating the incumbent Civic Platform, which won 24.1%. Following Andrzej Duda’s victory in the presidential election in May, a single party will form Poland’s government for the first time since communism’s end in 1989.

Indeed, Kaczyński now controls almost all levers of power in Poland. The only hope for those who believe that he and his party’s populist nationalism represent a threat to democracy is that PiS lacks, and probably cannot marshal, the two-thirds majority in the Sejm (parliament) needed to amend the constitution.

The election result stands in stark contrast to Poland’s economic and social facts. Under Civic Platform, GDP growth outpaced that of all OECD countries, with the cumulative gain from 2008 to 2014 totaling 23.8%. Likewise, unemployment has fallen below 10% for the first time in two decades, and the budget deficit has narrowed from 8% of GDP to less than 3%.

Moreover, Poles have never been as satisfied with their quality of life as they are now. In September, Poland’s most important opinion poll indicated that 84% of Poles believed that the past year was successful for them. Nor was it the socially marginalized and the economically vulnerable who returned PiS to power. Civic Platform lost the support of those who benefited most from its rule.