(LifeSiteNews) – Poland’s pro-family party has lost its majority government, but this does not mean the country will suffer a nightmarish social revolution.
For the past eight years, Poland has had the most genuinely socially conservative government in Europe, led by the Law and Justice party. On Sunday, parliamentary elections were held in the east-central European nation, and the results were officially proclaimed this morning. Despite receiving more votes than any other party, Law and Justice lacks the required number of mandates to form a parliamentary majority. While the leading grouping of the incoming government will try to force a progressivist social revolution, such efforts will be hindered by multiple factors.
In fall 2015, unemployment in Poland was at nearly 10%. Millions of Poles had left the country for the West, while the outgoing government, led by the liberal Civic Platform party, was broadly unpopular after a series of embarrassing corruption scandals.
Eight years later, unemployment in Poland stands at 5.5 %, the second lowest rate in the European Union, while for several years in a row Poland’s net migration balance has been positive, an unprecedented situation in more than two centuries, not only as hundreds of thousands of Polish migrants are returning from Western Europe, but also as millions of immigrants, most prominently guest workers and refugees from war-torn Ukraine, are finding a home in what was historically Europe’s most diverse nation.
Yet all things must pass. When any party is in power for eight years, a large part of the electorate will inevitably get jaded and want change, forgetting the current opposition’s past sins. Furthermore, the current global economic slump, which in Poland has led to stagflation (Polish economists recently rejoiced at the fact that in September the country’s annual rate of inflation was “just” 8.2 %, down from more than double that amount in early 2023), can never benefit an incumbent.
Considering this, it is quite remarkable that in Sunday’s elections the Poles catapulted Law and Justice to pole position: 35.38%, 4.68 % more than the runner-up, the Civic Coalition (Civic Platform and a handful of parties whose names are familiar to few). Yet receiving just 194 votes in the Sejm, the 460-member lower chamber of Poland’s Parliament, Law and Justice will be unable to govern, either alone or in a possible coalition with Confederation Liberty and Independence, an alt-right coalition of libertarians, monarchists, traditionalist Catholics, and nationalists which won just 7.16 % of the vote and 18 deputies.
Thus, the next Polish government will almost certainly be formed by Civic Platform (157 deputies), the Third Way (a coalition of the traditionally agrarian Polish People’s Party and Poland 2050, an ideology-free party started by Szymon Hołownia, a former liberal Catholic journalist and host of TV talent shows; it has garnered 65 deputies), and the New Left (26 deputies), an alliance of ageing functionaries of the former communist Ancien Régime and youngish hipsters privileged to be born late enough to be capable of harboring naïve illusions about Marxim.
Much like the eponymous protagonist of Woody Allen’s Zelig, Civic Platform is an ideological chameleon whose positions drastically change based on social trends. Such is the case with its leader, Donald Tusk: in the 1980s, the young Tusk was inspired by neoliberal economic thinkers like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, but when his party was in power, it increased the VAT tax to one of Europe’s highest rates. Similarly, as a young liberal politician in the early 1990s, Tusk was known for his fierce anti-clericalism. Yet during the presidential campaign of 2005, when Poland was still mourning the recent passing of St. John Paul II, Tusk had a very public church wedding with his wife, with whom he had been in a civil law union for a quarter century.
During the past parliamentary term, Tusk’s views on religion and social mores have come full circle, however. For most of its history, Civic Platform was a staunch defender of the 1993 Polish law on abortion, which banned abortion with three exceptions: when a woman’s life and health is endangered by a pregnancy, when the pregnancy results from rape or incest, and in the case of “fetal malformation.”
The last of these exceptions was vaguely defined; it allowed for abortion both in the case of rare genetic disorders with a very poor prognosis like anencephaly or cyclopia and for babies with Down syndrome and Turner syndrome. Most babies born with the latter two conditions lead long, happy, and productive lives.
In October 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Court proclaimed abortion in the case of “fetal malformation” unconstitutional (despite liberal media threatening Polish women that the current legislation threatens their lives, abortion is still legal in the case of the first two exemptions). Large-scale protests, largely funded by foreign capital, stormed Polish streets. In some cases, protestors vandalized churches and disrupted Catholic Masses.
For the previous five years, Civic Platform had consistently lost election after election. Yet seeing the energy of the protests, Tusk changed his party’s position on abortion in a New York minute. During this year’s elections, Tusk declared that candidates who do not support abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy will not be allowed to run on a Civic Platform ticket.
For the record, Western media outlets often selectively cite dubious polling from sources like the comically biased leftist website Oko.press, which purports that almost all Poles support abortion on demand. Yet other surveys ignored in the English-language press, such as a recent poll for the daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna and RMF FM radio, indicate that Poles overwhelmingly want the return to the status quo ante preceding October 2020; only 30% believe abortion should be legal on demand.
Given the vacuum created by the near-collapse of Poland’s post-communist Left, which lost power in 2005 amidst 20% unemployment and embarrassing corruption scandals (which included some of the governing party’s members ties to the mafia), it was inevitable that Civic Platform would eventually adopt the social progressivist agenda, especially as it is quite lucrative and generously funded by major corporations, Western governments, and supranational bodies like the EU and UN. Apart from adopting the anti-life agenda, Civic Platform’s leaders are increasingly prominently visible at LGBT pride parades.
Now, Civic Platform will form the next Polish government. There are, however, several reasons why their attempts at social revolution will falter.
First, Civic Platform’s biggest potential coalition partner will be the Third Way, which has received more than double the number of votes as the New Left. While the ideology of the Third Way’s Poland 2050 branch is indistinct, its partner, the Polish People’s Party, is traditionally the party of rural voters. Forty percent of Poles live in the country, and rural Poland is much more Catholic and conservative than major metropolises like Warsaw or Gdansk. On the abortion issue, the Third Way has postulated a return to the 1993 law, which nonetheless bans abortion on demand.
In fact, if Donald Tusk sounded like Henry VIII in his blackmailing of pro-life Civic Platform deputies, the Third Way has accepted the party’s Thomas Mores, many of whom have ties to the Church. They include Ireneusz Raś, who has received a mandate from Krakow. Kicked out of Civic Platform for his opposition to abortion, Raś is a devout Catholic; his brother is a priest who formerly served as the secretary of Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, archbishop emeritus of Krakow. (Raś was, however, kicked out of the Knights of Columbus for failing to vote to ban abortion in all circumstances when Civic Platform was in power).
Second, for the coming two years, Poland’s president will still be Andrzej Duda, who comes from Law and Justice and is a solid pro-life Catholic. Whereas in most European countries the head of state is a merely ceremonial office, Poland’s political system is based on the French model, and so the president has veto power. To override the president’s veto, a parliamentary super-majority of 276 votes is needed; the incoming government’s total deputy count falls more than 30 votes short.
Likewise, to introduce abortion on demand, the government would need to amend the Polish Constitution; for that, two-thirds of parliamentary deputies, 307, are needed. One of the most controversial aspects of Law and Justice’s rule was its judiciary reform. Critics, including all three parties that will make up the incoming coalition, have accused Law and Justice of illegally appointing several judges to the Constitutional Court. Thus, it is possible that the incoming government will try to replace some of them.
Yet not only the October 2020 ruling has declared abortion on demand unconstitutional. When the post-communist Left first ruled Poland in 1993-1997, it tried twice to make abortion legal without limitations. Its first attempt was vetoed by then-President Lech Wałęsa, a devout Catholic. After Wałęsa was replaced by the post-communist Aleksander Kwaśniewski and the leftist government once more attempted to legalize abortion, a group of conservative MPs and senators petitioned the Constitutional Court to review the new law. It declared it unconstitutional. It is worth noting that the then-chairman of the court, Prof. Andrzej Zoll, has been a harsh critic of Law and Justice’s judicial reforms.
Meanwhile, in 2015, the Constitutional Court, then led by Prof. Andrzej Rzepliński, who was also harshly critical of Law and Justice’s judicial overhaul and who all but explicitly endorses Civic Platform, and consisting exclusively of judges appointed by the Civic Platform-led parliamentary majority, declared that physicians have the constitutional right to refrain from performing abortions if their conscience is opposed.
Similarly, Article 18 of Poland’s Constitution reads: “Marriage understood as the union of a man and woman, motherhood, and parenthood are protected and defended by the Republic of Poland.” Thus, Civic Platform’s possible attempts at redefining marriage will likely again be frustrated by the Constitution.
Finally, although left-liberal Polish media have been euphoric for the past two days, Civic Platform’s mandate is weak. Although it will find it easier to form a parliamentary coalition than Law and Justice, it has technically lost the election to the latter party. Meanwhile, more than 40% of Polish voters voted for Law and Justice and Confederation, two unequivocally pro-life parties. In fact, Law and Justice’s support is just 2.2 % lower than in 2015, when it began its two-term parliamentary majority. Attempts at violating the rights of the unborn will run into major social opposition; it is possible that potential pro-life protests could dwarf the pro-abortion protests of 2020.
This does not mean that the next parliamentary term will be peachy for Polish pro-lifers, who face many challenges. Above all, they must educate society on what abortion truly is. One of the most shocking and frustrating aspects of the Polish abortion debate is that it is completely limited to emotionally charged slogans (especially on the pro-abortion side); bioethics is almost entirely absent. Thus, one leftist MP particularly active in the pro-abortion movement publicly said that a baby’s heart starts beating after birth. (Kudos to the website To tylko teoria – “It’s Only a Theory” – for “awarding” Scheuring-Wielgus the “Biggest Biological Balderdash” “distinction” of 2020 for this statement.) This also is more evidence that the pro-life movement has two powerful weapons on its side: science and reason.
Poland’s recent elections at first glance may seem like a setback for the pro-life, pro-family movement. Yet there are several reasons why a Zapatero or Obama-style social revolution may be stifled in Poland. Perhaps the most important reason is that the election results prove that the defenders of tradition, life, and morality remain a major force in Polish society.