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POLAND: Opposition in turmoil

Opposition parties PO and Modern are in disarray following a fiasco regarding a vote in the Sejm on a draft proposal to liberalise the abortion law. Due to opposition MPs missing and voting against, the proposal was defeated by just eight votes. Notably, many PiS politicians voted for the bill to proceed to committee – in line with the election promise to support every citizen proposal bill in its initial stages of the legislative process. PO has already expelled three MPs who voted against the bill and in favour of the counter bill to restrict access to abortion further, not in line with party discipline. Two of them were quite prominent members of the Sejm. The party will also discipline 29 MPs who did not take part in the vote. Ten MPs from Modern have also not appeared to vote. The party’s leadership has decided to fine them. As a sign of protest, three prominent Modern MPs have suspended their membership and more are threatening to leave the party.

In October 2016, abortion returned to the Polish political scene as an important topic. It was then that thousands of women took to protests in the streets against a proposal to further restrict abortion laws. PO and Modern have since often supported these efforts to capitalize on the protests politically. The breaking of party line regarding the vote has split the opposition and weakened it considerably. Following this week’s government reconstruction which strengthened PiS, commentators are arguing that this means “the end of the opposition in Poland”.