Poland 2010 – Runoff

The runoff of the Polish presidential election was held on Sunday, July 4. As a result of a first round held on June 20, Acting President Bronisław Komorowski of Civic Platform (PO) and former Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński of Law and Justice (PiS) were qualified for the runoff. Komorowski had obtained 41.5% of the vote while Jarosław Kaczyński, the brother of late President Lech Kaczyński, obtained 36.5% of the vote. In third place, Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) Grzegorz Napieralski obtained 13.7% but his votes were seen as key votes for any candidate in order to win the runoff. However, turnout was really the major decider in both the first round and runoff. In the first round, turnout was 54.9%, a surprisingly strong turnout, particularly in the cities where Komorowski found most of his support. Some feared that the summer weather would lead to lower turnout on July 4, and thus allow Kaczyński an opportunity to win an upset given that his traditionally older, more rural voters are more likely to turn out in a low turnout election. In fact, it was not to be: turnout increased between both rounds to reach 55.31% yesterday. Again, turnout was particularly strong in cities such as Warsaw or Gdansk, although traditionally high-turnout rural areas in Galicia also recorded strong participation.

Polling had narrowed between both rounds to give Komorowski a narrow lead over Kaczyński, one much narrower than first round runoff scenarios had predicted (in the vicinity of 60-40 or larger for Komorowski). Indeed, one poll had even placed Kaczyński ahead 49-47 and others indicated a very narrow margin of roughly 2-3% in favour of Komorowski. A good campaign by Kaczyński likely explains this boost in support for him, while Komorowski’s lackluster campaign definitely lowered his share of the vote. Yet, in my opinion, a narrowing of the margin was to be expected. Unlike a European election, presidential ballots are serious stuff and people don’t vote with their middle fingers or have fun with their vote that much. Furthermore, Poland remains a rather polarized country with a stark division in voting patterns between east and west. Really, a narrow result was to be expected. Here are the results:

Bronisław Komorowski (PO) 53.01%
Jarosław Kaczyński (PiS) 46.99%

Komorowski has won by a clear, rather decisive margin, as was rather widely expected by most people and predicted by exit polls on the night of the election. Polls indicate that Napieralski’s voters, those who turned out, split around 70-30 in favour of Komorowski. As always, the hard part comes now. PO, like PiS between 2005 and 2007 or the SLD between 2001 and 2005, now has absolute control over the executive (Presidency) and the legislature (and thus the office of Prime Minister). While the office of President is really not the ultimate power position in Poland, the office does hold sway and considerable power. Komorowski could likely be overshadowed by Donald Tusk, who declined to run in order to focus on his job as Prime Minister, likely understanding that he holds more power there than in the presidency. Furthermore, given the track-record of Polish legislative majorities facing a second consecutive term, PO could well be in trouble as early of 2011. Their troubles would play in Kaczyński’s hands, whose real goal is to reconquer the office of Prime Minister for himself in 2011. Indeed, a Kaczyński victory yesterday would have rendered a PiS victory in 2011 more unlikely and would have left the party, which often appears to be based quite a lot on the personality of Kaczyński (and prior to that, his late brother), without a real leader to face the voters in 2011, an election which is in truth quite a bit more important than the presidential election.

Polish election maps are always the funnest maps to create for the sheer polarization and amusing patterns on said maps. The general pattern of PO strongholds in more urbanized, wealthier western Poland – formerly German Poland and PiS strongholds in more rural, poorer and more conservative eastern Poland – formerly Russian and Austrian Poland has obviously been sustained. However, the real pattern is more one of a urban-rural split, as evidenced by the strong margins in Komorowski’s favour in eastern cities, most notably Warsaw. Warsaw’s electoral strength, however, remains drowned in the deeply conservative voting patterns of rural areas in the Masovian Voivodeship – which Kaczyński narrowly won with 50.6% of the vote. Kaczyński also performed well in Upper Silesia’s coal mining basin, which is centered around Rybnik and in the blue enclave located west of Wroclaw, which has a struggling copper mine. It seems that controversial attacks by Kaczyński on Komorowski’s alleged plans to privatize certain mines struck a chord and Komorowski usually did worse in Upper Silesia’s indutrial heart than the PO had done in 2007 or 2009. However, PiS also has roots in the union movement and most blue-collar workers tend to vote for PiS. The deeply orange exclave in Podlaskie Voivodeship, Hajnówka County, has a strong Belarussian minority. The other orange enclave in southern Poland has a strong Ukrainian minority. In German areas, Komorowski performed very strongly as well.

The National Electoral Commission’s website, which has an excellent interface, breaks down the vote into two large categories: city and country, and the results highlight very well the fundamental nature of Polish electoral polarization: it is urban vs. rural and not east vs. west. In cities, Komorowski won 59.5% of the vote, while in the country he won a paltry 41.1%. Furthermore, with one tiny exception, Komorowski’s share of the vote consistently increases with population. In settlements with less than 5,000 people, he won 41.4%, a number which increases to reach 64.2% in cities with over 500,000 inhabitants. Rarely is such a beautifully perfect correlation between population and voting patterns ever seen.

Komorowski won the votes of Poles living abroad with around 60.3%. He only lost in Afghanistan (where the vote is largely military), Bosnia but most importantly Canada and the United States (which he both lost by considerable margins). There seems to be a rift between Poles who have been settled abroad for a long time – such as Polish working-class immigrants in the US – and Poles who have only recently moved abroad – such as Polish immigrants in the UK. This follows a pattern also seen in results in Poland, where Komorowski did well in areas – such as western Poland – which have seen major popular resettlements (the German population in the old Polish Corridor and western Poland has indeed been massively resettled since 1945, with only a small German minority subsisting in Opole).

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Posted on July 5, 2010, in Poland. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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