Are local elections in Poland a harbinger of change?

Following the recent vote on October 21, all major players on the political scene presented themselves as winners. But what do these elections really mean for Poland? And why, yet again, did we have to watch them through the eyes of men?

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
Are local elections in Poland a harbinger of change? - NewsMavens
Voting center in Warsaw, YouTube

Why this story matters:

Poland followed this vote with bated breath. It was the first election since the far-right Law and Justice party took over the parliament and the presidential palace in 2015. During their time in power, Law and Order has already managed to castrate the public media, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, leading to hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in protest. Did this dissent translate into election results?

Partially. The fact that over half of the nation (54.58%) went to vote in local elections is without precedent and shows that Poles are more politically engaged than ever in the post-1989 reality.

One thing is certain -- this election had many winners.

Law and Justice dominated the regional parliaments, proving that over the past three years the opposition hadn’t come up with a program that could compete with what the ruling party has to offer.

Yet the opposition also won. Their candidates took over the majority of posts as heads of city governments, most notably in Warsaw. In the capital, the hub of the anti-government protests, the liberal candidate Rafał Trzaskowski, trashed his rival in the first round of the elections.

Generally speaking, the results confirmed what we’d already known.

The North-West of Poland voted liberal and the South-East -- conservative. The rural voters were more in favour of the governing party than the urban ones (although the rural vs urban dichotomy shouldn't be oversimplified, as there are many liberal, pro-european heads of village councils).  

Yet this feast of omnipresent winners had a bitter aftertaste. Because, as usually, it was largely presented through a male lens.

In 2014, Poland introduced mandatory quotas for the participation of women candidates (35%) and the recent election noted an almost record number of them. And yet three of major TV news channels didn't invite a single women expert to comment the results. On the election night, private Polsat News and TVN24, as well as public TVP Info featured manels.

On November 28, Poland will celebrate 100 years of suffrage. But while women's votes are sought after, their voice still isn’t.

Details from the story:

  • On October 21, 2018, Poles chose future members of local governments as well as local parliaments and councils.
  • The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) came first in the elections for the parliaments (34.13%), followed by the liberal Citizen Coalition (26.97%) and the agrarian, Christian-democratic PSL (12.07%). The highest scoring left-wing party, SLD, was supported by only 6.62% of voters.
  • 41% of candidates for the local parliaments, and only 18% of candidates for the heads of local governments were women.
  • More women than men went to the ballots.
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