Analysis: Aiming for the balance of power

The agrarian Polish People’s Party (PSL) with its new ally Paweł Kukiz, are aiming for the balance of power.

The PSL is changing its positioning. For the past 14 years it has been a party which has formed its coalitions at central and local government level, and within the European Parliament, with the Civic Platform (PO).

As recently as this May the PSL were allied with the PO and also the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) for the European elections. Though they managed to get three MEPs elected within that electoral coalition the party departed that alliance immediately on that election being over.

The reason was that both the party leadership and its rank-and-file became increasingly unhappy at the fact that both the PO and the SLD were turning towards cultural liberalism and secularism. This did not sit well with either PSL voters or members, who tend to be culturally conservative and Catholic.

Rockman turns country

This is why the party took a decision to build its own slate for the Parliamentary elections. It has attracted conservative PO members who have become disaffected within their former party. And last week the PSL formed an alliance with Paweł Kukiz and his Kukiz‘15 association. The rockman has decided to go country.

That alliance means that a party has taken a turn to the right. Mr Kukiz has during the course of this term of Parliament tended to agree with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) on cultural matters and foreign policy. He is keen on radical changes to Poland’s political system such as electing MPs in single-member constituencies and giving voters the right to recall MPs and to call referendums the results of which would be binding on a turnout of 30 percent. These, together with plans for a radical overhaul of the judiciary which would include electing judges, are new departures for the PSL.

The direction for the leader of the PSL Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and his ally Mr Kukiz seems to be clear. They are signalling that they could coalesce with either the PO or PiS and they seem to be signalling that they could not ally themselves in government with the Left.

Coalition with the ruling PiS?

The reason why this could be a highly significant development is that should PSL be in a position to either build a majority coalition with the PiS or, in order to have a majority government, to have to ally with both the PO and with the Left it, will be inclined to prefer the former.

The PSL will of course come under intense pressure over the coalition issue during the election. It appears likely, that in an effort to warm PiS inclined voters towards it, it may well say that it will first talk to the party which has won the most seats and votes in the election. Since that is most likely to be the ruling PiS, a very clear signal will have been sent.

All but the 2015 Parliamentary elections since the end of communism in Poland have ended in balanced parliaments in which no party held a majority. The PiS majority in 2015 was therefore the exception rather than the rule. However, the polls at the present time point to the ruling party being on course for another majority in this autumn’s election.