Cablegate: Final Election Results Announced in Poland

Published: Tue 27 Sep 2005 02:04 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
B. WARSAW 3456
1. (SBU) Summary: The final results of Polish parliamentary
elections confirmed a narrow first-place finish for the
center-right Law and Justice (PiS), followed by its
anticipated coalition partner, the Civic Platform (PO). The
latest forecasts for parliamentary seat distribution indicate
that PiS and PO will have a comfortable working majority, but
short of the necessary two-thirds required to amend the
Polish constitution. Analyses of PiS's victory over PO
highlight the impact of traditional LPR supporters voting for
PiS, with the open encouragement of arch-conservative Radio
Maryja. PiS was also successful in labeling the PO's
economic program as "dangerous liberalism." PO may have
suffered by identifying itself too closely as the party of
educated and urban Poles. Attention now shifts to the first
round of presidential elections (October 9) and the
horse-trading over the composition of the anticipated PiS-PO
coalition government. End Summary.
2. (U) The Polish State Electoral Commission announced early
September 27 the final results of Poland's September 25
parliamentary elections. The final tallies confirm PiS
winning with 26.99 percent of the vote, followed by PO at
24.14 percent. Third place went to the populist
Self-Defense, with 11.41 percent. The governing SLD beat
expectations, receiving 11.31 percent of the vote. The
right-wing League of Polish Families (LPR), meanwhile,
performed well below expectations, at just 7.97 percent. (LPR
leader Roman Giertych won his seat by the thinnest of
margins.) The remaining party of the six that will enter
parliament, the Peasants' Party (PSL), finished at 6.96
percent. The latest forecasts for seat distribution, based
on ninety percent of the votes tallied, show PiS and PO with
152 and 133 seats, respectively, far more than the 231 needed
for a majority. The final seat allocation will be released
by the State Electoral Commission later September 27.
3. (SBU) Voter turnout was a meager 40.17 percent, an
all-time low for post-communist Poland, and a reflection of
voter apathy. Some Poles complained to poloffs that they did
not see any real difference between PiS and PO, which
dominated the final months of the campaign. Others indicate
that they switched from PO to PiS in the final days,
responding to PiS attacks that PO's economic program was
"dangerous" and "liberal" (in the economic sense, here
reminiscent of "shock therapy" and suggesting a willingness
to abandon the social net for the economically down-trodden).
One Pole who switched from PO to PiS told poloff that PO's
flat-tax proposal would harm average Poles by raising VAT
taxes on currently subsidized programs like health care and
child care benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the
middle class. Another factor benefiting PiS was the support
it received from arch-conservative Radio Maryja, which urged
its listeners to support PiS (as opposed to their usual
party, LPR) in order to "sink PO." For its part, PO was
ineffective in countering the PiS charges.
4. (SBU) PO officials throughout Poland repeatedly told
poloffs that they expected to place first because they
enjoyed the support of "virtually all educated Poles." This
smug expectation clearly fell flat with some Poles who chafed
at PO's arrogance. So far this label does not seem to have
hurt PO's front-running presidential candidate, Donald Tusk,
who continues to enjoy a double-digit lead over his PiS
rival, Lech Kaczynski. Billboards throughout the country
show the smiling PO candidate labeled as "President Tusk."
Before the parliamentary elections, PO spoke hopefully of a
first-round win for Tusk. Sobered by their second-place
finish, most in PO now expect Tusk to ultimately prevail, but
only in a second-round face off with Kaczynski on October 23.
Tusk opened an aggressive campaign Monday, playing off
perceived public concern about the prospect of the twin
Kaczynski brothers serving as both Prime Minister and
Red States - Blue States
5. (U) PiS prevailed in two-thirds of Poland's provinces,
including Warsaw and the traditionally poorer areas in
northern, eastern and southern Poland. PiS's strongest
showing was in the province surrounding conservative Krakow,
where it received 37 percent of the vote. PO won in five
provinces, predominantly in the wealthier western regions of
Poland, and capturing fully 40 percent of the vote in
PO-stronghold, Gdansk. The extremist Self Defense, which
placed third overall, came in first in three largely rural
provinces, but did not in the end have the hidden well of
support that some feared, and polled at about the rate
predicted by opinion surveys. Voter turnout, while
disappointing overall, was notably higher in cities than in
rural areas.
6. (SBU) While pundits agree that PiS was successful in
outperforming PO by attacking its rival's liberal economic
policies, and while the two parties will face each other
again in the presidential campaign, there remains no question
that they are committed to forming a strong ruling coalition,
with ministries divided roughly along the same lines as
speculated for a PO-led coalition. Both parties are deeply
committed to a strong bilateral relationship with the United
States. PiS's Lech Kaczynski yesterday said there was "no
strict deadline" for withdrawing Polish troops from Iraq.
PO's Donald Tusk was more cautious, calling for "serious
talks" with the United States with respect to Poland's role
in Iraq. While PiS has scheduled a 6:00 p.m. press
conference, reportedly to announce its candidate for Prime
Minister, it is still likely that there will not be a
government in place until after presidential elections.
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