Poland’s Elections Are Making Everyone Sweat

Poland’s Elections Are Making Everyone Sweat
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice, or PiS, party during the party’s pre-election convention, in Pruszkow, Poland, Sept. 27, 2023 (photo by Andrzej Iwanczuk for NurPhoto via AP Images).

Poland’s parliamentary elections on Oct. 15 could cement the ruling Law and Justice, or PiS, party’s hold on power—or usher in its demise. From Kyiv to Washington, via Berlin and Brussels, Warsaw’s partners and allies will be watching closely.

Since winning the country’s 2015 elections, PiS has sought to tighten its grip on Poland’s institutions, including the public television broadcaster and the courts. In 2019, it won a second four-year term, which has enabled it to strengthen its grip. Led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who co-founded PiS with his late twin brother Lech Kaczynski in 2001, the party combines social conservatism, including a tough stance on abortion and hostility to the LGBTQ+ community, with a statist approach to the economy and welfare policies, including generous benefits for families and retirees.

While the PiS government has maintained Poland’s pro-Western foreign policy consensus, relations with key allies, including Germany, have been strained by its more confrontational tone, such as its calls for Berlin to pay reparations for damages inflicted during World War II. Most recently, a spat with Ukraine over grain imports threatened to tarnish its image as one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters since Russia’s all-out invasion of the country in February 2022.

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