sierakowski74_Maciej LuczniewskiNurPhoto via Getty Images_jaroslawkaczynskiPiS Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Polish Opposition’s Own Goal

Just when Poland's illiberal ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), was in its most precarious political position in years, the country's opposition parties managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Worse, while the opposition missed an opportunity to make significant gains, PiS could emerge stronger than ever.

WARSAW – Over the past six months, Poland’s government coalition, comprising Law and Justice (PiS) and two tiny parties, had been decaying markedly, creating a golden opportunity for the opposition to oust it. But, instead of forming a united front, the opposition fell to infighting, and Poland’s PiS-led populist government could emerge stronger than ever.

A rivalry between Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro to succeed PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński had incited a series of parliamentary crises. Deputies in each of the three government parties left, and relations within the coalition devolved into open animosity. PiS’s approval fell from over 40% to around 30% – only half the combined support for the opposition parties.

The crisis within PiS has been compounded by the pandemic. While the first global wave of COVID-19 largely bypassed Poland, the second and third waves have lifted the country to the top of international rankings. At around 1,900 per million inhabitants, Poland’s death rate now exceeds that of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.