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POLAND: PSL to leave European Coalition

On Saturday, the Polish agrarian party announced its plans to leave the European Coalition. Despite its weak position in parliament, PSL managed to win a satisfactory result in the EP election – losing only one European mandate of its current 4.  However, the party lost most of its voter base. PiS pinched nearly 50% of all rural area votes, as well as those of 72.3% of farmers.

The loss of the agrarian PSL in the 2018 local elections, and its subsequent entry into the European Coalition, allowed PiS to bet on voters from Poland’s rural regions. Experts argue that the opposition’s disregard for policies directed at the countryside was what cost PSL its voter base. This was especially visible regarding PiS’ proposal to fund cattle farms from EU funds, which was ridiculed by certain figures from the opposition. Furthermore, commentators believe that the wide alliance of parties forming the European Coalition, as well as its open support for pro-LGBT policies were among the main reasons for the defection of PSL’s voter base to PiS.

The Polish agrarian party further announced plans to a form a new alliance – the Polish Coalition. The Polish Coalition has not officially been formed – a decision will be made within a month. The party’s leadership believes that it will allow to rebuild its stature amongst the traditional voters, but experts argue that for the time being the party only appears to be probing its electorate and is suffering from an internal conflict between its liberal and conservative factions.  Others, however argue that the separation of the PSL from the European Coalition could be a planned move, which will benefit the opposition as a whole. Previously the PO-lead alliance focused on its urban, liberal electorate. The European election, however proved that the ability to mobilise this voter base has reached its peak. The creation of a centre-left bloc lead by the PO, as well as a centre bloc spearheaded by the PSL may increase the spectrum of potential voters. Additionally, Robert Biedron’s Spring party may accommodate for the left-wing electorate. Consequently,  the opposition would have a good chance of weakening the ruling PiS party, especially if as a result of this ploy, the Kukiz’15 movement, as well as the Confederation fall under the parliamentary 5% threshold. The success of this strategy would largely depend on the PSL’s ability to win back its traditional voter base.  As cross party negotiations continue, it remains to be seen whether the Polish Coalition will materialise and what tactic the opposition will take ahead of the general election. However, this would be yet another change to the opposition’s formation. Commentators argue that these frequent changes confuse and discourage opposition voters.