WARSAW: Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party won a landslide in Sunday’s general elecation on anti-refugee rhetoric and welfare promises, ending eight years of centrist rule in a victory that risks inflaming tensions with the EU and Russia.
The euroskeptic PiS led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski garnered an outright majority, according to projections from partial results by local television channels, ousting leftist parties from parliament for the first time since the fall of communism in 1989.
“This is the first time in the history of Polish democracy that a single party has scored (an outright) majority” in the Sejm, the lower house, Kaczynski said in a victory speech after Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz conceded defeat.
He also paid tribute to his twin bother, the late president Lech Kaczynski, who died in a 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, western Russia, saying: “Without him, we wouldn’t be here today. His spirit is stronger than his body. We must keep his memory alive.”
Kaczynski did not run for prime minister but is expected to call the shots in the next government, which he has signaled could be headed by Beata Szydlo, a coalminer’s daughter who ran a victorious presidential campaign in May.
His push for power preyed on fears arising from Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II and analysts said a PiS government was likely to reverse Kopacz’s decision to accept refugees under an EU quota plan.
Kaczynski claimed refugees were bringing “cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna, various types of parasites,” in comments that critics said recalled the Nazi era.
He insists Warsaw should financially support EU efforts to tackle the crisis, but not take in refugees — a view surveys suggest is shared by nearly 60 percent of Poles.
“After eight years in opposition, Kaczynski is making a big comeback,” Warsaw political analyst Eryk Mistewicz told AFP.
Although the EU member’s economy is forecast to expand by 3.5 percent this year and next, and joblessness recently fell below 10 percent, many voters are fed up, believing time and money have been wasted.
The governing Civic Platform (PO) also never recovered from a 2014 eavesdropping scandal that discredited high-profile government ministers, analysts say.
The departure last year of party leader Donald Tusk to the post of EU Council president set the centrists adrift.
“The Poland we leave to the election winners” is one of economic and social progress, Kopacz told supporters in Warsaw as she conceded defeat after two terms in office.