The eighth week of the election campaign in Poland (27 September-3 October 2023)

by | Oct 3, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Written by Filip Bialy

The Civic Coalition’s Million Hearts March has dominated the headlines, with the Law and Justice party convention struggling to get half the attention. Donald Tusk is attempting to unify the opposition forces, hoping that eventually the right-wing government will be unseated.

With just two weeks to the election day, the already heated competition between the two main players is getting even more intense. Both the Civic Coalition march and Law and Justice conventions were held on 1 October, with leaders of the opposition and the government exchanging jabs from their respective stages.

The Million Hearts March was a more successful reprise of a similar rally organised by the Civic Coalition in June. The Sunday event was going to show the unity of the opposition, offering an optimistic counter-narrative to the Law and Justice fear-based campaign, as well as marking the beginning of the final counterattack. Hundreds of coach buses arrived in Warsaw early Sunday, bringing supporters from all parts of Poland.

Donald Tusk began the march at noon with a short speech before giving the floor to the Warsaw mayor and prime minister-in-waiting Rafał Trzaskowski. Both were upstaged by the Left’s Włodzimierz Czarzasty. Wearing his trademark red sweater, Czarzasty, often painted as a boring apparatchik, offered a fierce defence of women’s rights and a secular state, attacking the Catholic church. The Left joined the march, while the Third Way leaders did not. In his closing speech, Tusk, who reportedly to the very last day tried to convince Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and Szymon Hołownia to participate, said that there are no enemies on the opposition side.

While Tusk called the 3-hour-long march “the biggest public gathering of the 21st century”, with an actual million people attending, public media reported that the march was attended by merely 60 thousand people. That number was even quoted by Jarosław Kaczyński from the stage during the party convention organised 300 km away, in Spodek, a flying saucer-shaped arena in Katowice, a symbol of coal mining and heavy industry.

Commentators noticed a stark contrast between the picnic-like march, attended by people with home-made, hand-written, pun-ridden banners, and the dark atmosphere of the Law and Justice parteitag. A procession of gloomy officials repeating campaign talking points finished with a long speech by Kaczyński. But the most widely commented moment of the convention was a presentation of a new violent campaign ad that mashed up a number of clips of Civic Coalition’s politicians and supporters using strong language while speaking against the government during rallies or protests. The Law and Justice spokesperson Rafał Bochenek immediately offered his interpretation: “These are the standards of Tusk and his supporters: aggression, foul language, hatred. This is not how the public debate should look like”.

Online activities

Without a shadow of doubt, the Million Hearts March won on social media. According to one analysis, posts with #MarszMilionaSerc hashtag reached more than 400 million users. Law and Justice convention that used the campaign hashtag #BezpiecznaPolska reached more than 100 million users, the most ever for that party. Both the march and the convention were streamed live on YouTube. Through Donald Tusk’s channel, the march was watched by almost 200 thousand users, while the official stream of the convention was seen by 45 thousand users.

In the polls

In the survey results published by before 1 October, the projected results are the following:

  • Law and Justice (36.09% / 195 seats)
  • Civic Coalition (32.46% / 160 seats)
  • Third Way (10.12% / 39 seats)
  • Confederacy (9.01% / 35 seats)
  • Left (8.91% / 30 seats).

According to this projection, Law and Justice and Confederacy would have 230 seats, exactly 50% of all seats. The opposition parties’ number amounts to 229 seats, with 1 additional seat belonging, by law, to a representative of the German minority in Poland. Some commentators speculate that in such a situation, it is probable that the Civic Coalition would attempt to convince a few Confederacy members to support the opposition’s prime minister candidate.

In the polls and projections published by “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” after the march and the convention, prospects for the opposition look slightly better:

  • Law and Justice (32% / 176-182 seats)
  • Civic Coalition (28.2% / 145-153 seats)
  • Third Way (11% / 48-52 seats)
  • Left (10.2% / 38-42 seats)
  • Confederacy (10% / 40-42 seats)

It would mean that the opposition government could count on 235-243 seats.