Poland’s governing nationalists came out on top in regional elections on Sunday, but have lost ground to the opposition centrists in the mayoral races in large cities including the capital Warsaw.
The local elections also took place as the Law and Justice party (PiS) and has put Poland on a collision course with the European Union by introducing a string of controversial judicial reforms that the eastern bloc has warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to their very democracy.
The elections, for local and provincial offices, were the first election since a 2015 parliamentary election that handed the Law and Justice (PiS) party an unprecedented parliamentary majority. It was seen also a test for the nationalists as they gear up for EU and legislative elections next year.
The elections on Sunday, a sign that the party may not have broadened its support among more moderate voters. As the ruling party failed to gain ground in Warsaw.
Exit polls by the IPSOS pollsters showed the PiS winning by 32 percent of the vote in elections to regional councils across Poland, beating a centrist-liberal coalition headed by the opposition Civic Platform (PO) with 24 percent.
Powerful PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski hailed his party’s victory as a “good sign” for next year’s parliamentary elections, despite the exit poll result suggesting that the PiS is unlikely to be able to govern alone in regional councils.
Exit polls also showed the Polish Peasants’ Party (PSL), traditionally strong in rural areas, winning 16.6 percent of the vote, a result likely to turn it into a kingmaker in coalition-building.
The governing populist party, which has repeatedly clashed with European Union institutions, was the top vote winner in local elections Sunday, according to an exit poll, but its victory was not as popular as expected And t could take up to two days for all the votes to be tallied and official results released.
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