Polish Populists Gain National Vote Momentum From EU Ballot

Marek Strzelecki and Adrian Krajewski
Polish Populists Gain National Vote Momentum From EU Ballot

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s ruling nationalists won a landslide victory over a liberal coalition in elections for the European parliament as strong economic growth outweighed concerns over its repeated clashes with Brussels over democratic standards.

The Law & Justice party won 45.4% votes in Sunday’s ballot. The European Coalition created by pro-EU parties won 38.5%. The victory shows the government is in the driver’s seat ahead of general elections due by November.

“This is a great success, the best result any party has achieved” since communism ended, ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Monday. “But it’s not a signal for us to stop working, we know that those who want to defend the old status quo will keep fighting.”

Law & Justice has benefited from one of the European Union’s fastest-growing economies and improvements in tax collection, which has allowed the government to splurge on welfare. With gross domestic product expanding at a pace of around 5% over the past three years, Poles are becoming more upbeat over their economic futures, even as the EU has sued the government for undermining the rule of law with its court revamps.

Tight control over public television, which is run by a former Law & Justice lawmaker, has also helped limit the impact from scandals, including over real-estate dealings by Kaczynski and more recently, by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Six ministers and four deputy-ministers won mandates in the EU parliament, meaning cabinet changes are looming.

The zloty and Warsaw stocks were little changed on Monday. The ruling party’s victory was hailed as a positive fiscal development by analysts at MBank SA, who said that there will be less pressure for a “bidding contest in social spending” with the opposition, since the gap between the two sides was so wide.

‘Positive Message’

The pro-EU opposition, cobbled together by the Civic Platform party, focused its message mainly on getting rid of Law & Justice but failed to spell out a vision for the country of 38 million people. The result is set to boost pressure on its leadership and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council and a former Polish prime minister, to do more before the general election to help pro-EU voices regain power.

“The European Coalition is missing a genuine, positive message,” Olgierd Annusewicz, a political scientist at Warsaw University, said Monday. “Maybe a leadership shake-up would help but there’s no clear successor at the moment” with Tusk still in Brussels, he said. “It’s clear that the potential to address centrist, leftist and liberal voters hasn’t been utilized.”

(Updates with final results, new quotes and markets from second paragraph.)

--With assistance from Konrad Krasuski, Dorota Bartyzel, Maciej Onoszko and Wojciech Moskwa.

To contact the reporters on this story: Marek Strzelecki in Warsaw at mstrzelecki1@bloomberg.net;Adrian Krajewski in Warsaw at akrajewski4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Wojciech Moskwa

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