The fifth week of the election campaign in Poland (6-12 September 2023)

by | Sep 12, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Written by Filip Bialy

Parties registered their candidates and held their conventions as Law and Justice remains the polls leader. Civic Coalition fights back by presenting 100 promises for the first 100 days in government and Jarosław Kaczyński goes viral with a video that evokes anti-German sentiments.

The 6th of September was the deadline for registering lists of candidates. The following day, the National Electoral Commission dutifully published the lists on its website. In total, 4881 candidates for the Sejm were registered by 12 committees that include parties, coalitions, as well as so-called “election committees of the voters” formed by non-partisan citizens. The number of candidates is more than ten times the number of seats in the lower chamber of parliament (which is 460). The ratio is significantly lower in the case of the Senate, with 304 candidates competing for 100 seats. While members of the Sejm are elected in 41 multi-seat districts, with seats being distributed using the d’Hondt method, the senators are elected in 100 single-member, first-past-the-post districts. The relatively low number of Senate candidates is a consequence of the non-aggression Senate Pact signed by the five opposition committees in August. There is a 56% to 44% ratio of male and female candidates for the Sejm, and 80% to 20% for the Senate.

Party conventions

With the lists being finalised and registered, the heated internal debates of the preceding weeks stopped, and the parties focused on campaigning. With that purpose in mind, on Saturday, 9th September, four of the five major parties – Law and Justice, Civic Coalition, Third Way, and The Left – simultaneously organised their conventions.

Law and Justice met in the small town of Końskie to present several new (and several not that new) points from its program. The main one was a promise to further lower the retirement age. The other, rather minor promises, had been announced beforehand and included points from the short-lived hashtag campaign #KonkretyPiS (“Law and Justice’s concretes”), presented in the previous week.

An equal amount of time at the convention was spent on attacking Donald Tusk, with special focus on the Civic Coalition leader’s German connection, which has been a persistent feature of the right-wing narrative about Tusk in the last 15 years. The speakers also continued to play on the theme of national security, reiterating threats about illegal migration. The media and the opposition quickly accused the government of hypocrisy: last week a major corruption scandal erupted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The scandal involves the deputy minister and other officials, Polish lobbyists, and an Indian visa agent company and might have resulted in tens of thousands of visas being issued improperly to temporary workers from the Middle East and South-East Asia. The opposition points out that while Law and Justice is using anti-Muslim rhetoric against migrants from Arabic countries, the government is allowing in workers from the same countries.

Civic Coalition held its own convention in Tarnów, a medium-sized city in southern Poland. The event focused on presenting “100 concretes” for the first 100 days of the future Civic Coalition government. The list, which has its own website, is a menu of items relating to family, education, women’s rights, entrepreneurs, security, and so on. It also promises to hold the Law and Justice government accountable. But the “concretes” that got the most media attention were related to taxation and budget spending. Donald Tusk announced an increase in the tax-free salary and pension threshold and higher salaries for teachers and employees in the public sector. It was offered as a response to high inflation, which, according to Tusk, was a result of the government’s greed and corruption.

The Civic Coalition narrative was a success in the media and overshadowed the conventions of smaller players. The Third Way focused on the economy and promised to reverse the Law and Justice decision to ban Sunday trading. The Left promised to introduce a 35-hour work week, longer vacations, and a 20% increase in salaries in the public sector.

Online activities

Recent reports about the social media use by political parties focus on how Law and Justice utilises YouTube to target particular segments of the public. In general, this year’s campaign relies heavily on the use of online videos. The parties publish new spots every day, frequently offering direct responses to their adversaries’ claims.

One recent Law and Justice video includes Jarosław Kaczyński taking a fictional phone call from the German embassy, requesting Poland to set the retirement age to the level introduced by Donald Tusk. Kaczyński responds: “Tusk is no longer here, and this way of doing business has ended,” adding that the retirement age will be decided by the Polish people in the referendum. The hashtag that accompanies the video is #PodmiotowaPolska (“sovereign Poland”). The spot alludes to unverified information that Tusk, while prime minister in 2011, discussed the retirement age issue with Angela Merkel. The video became the most widely shared one in this year’s campaign and has been quickly re-edited and parodied by the opposition and regular internet users alike, accompanied by the hashtag #TelefonDoJarka (“a phone call to Jarek [diminutive of Jarosław]”). It is worth reminding that Jarosław Kaczyński and his twin brother Lech (future president of Poland who died in a plane crash in 2010) were child actors who starred in a movie entitled “The Two Who Stole the Moon”.

Jarosław Kaczyński phone call viral video:


Opposition voters gossip about secret internal polls that are supposed to show that Civic Coalition could get as much as 40% of the votes, while Law and Justice’s actual support is half of that. But the sources within Civic Coalition, quoted in the media, confirm that the official and internal polls paint the same picture: the governing party has support at around 37%, with 31% for the Coalition. Confederacy is third with 9%, before Third Way (8%) and the Left (6%).