President Duda sets Poland parliamentary election date for October 15

Polls for the parliament’s upper and lower houses come amid rising tensions on country’s eastern borders.

Polish President and presidential candidate of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Andrzej Duda speaks after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the first round of presidential elections in
President Andrej Duda called on Poles to head to the polls [File: Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

Poland will hold a parliamentary election on October 15, President Andrej Duda has announced.

The crucial polls will determine the NATO member’s relations with the European Union at a time when it faces rising tensions on its eastern borders amid concerns about the presence of Russian-linked Wagner Group fighters in Belarus.

Duda, who is aligned with the governing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, urged citizens to vote in the polls that will determine the makeup of the parliament’s upper and lower houses – the Sejm and the Senate, respectively – for a four-year term.

“The future of Poland is a matter for each of us! Use your rights!” he said on Tuesday on X, the rebranded version of Twitter.

Polls have shown that PiS, in power since 2015, has maintained a narrow lead over the largest opposition party, the liberal Civic Platform (PO) headed by Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister and former president of the European Council.

However, even if the winner of the 2015 and 2019 elections manages what would be an unprecedented third victory in a row, it is unlikely to have an overall majority, opening the possibility of a coalition with the far-right Confederation party.

PiS has so far centred its campaign around an increase in payments under its flagship child benefit policy, while stressing that it will take a tough line on border security and criticising what it has said is PO’s subservient approach to relations with the EU and Germany.

PO has said removing PiS from government is necessary to unblock EU funds that have been frozen due to a dispute over the rule of law, and to reverse changes to the judiciary and state media which critics believed have eroded democratic standards in the country. The party has seen its support grow in recent months, but this has come mostly at the expense of other opposition parties.

The election campaign will formally kick off after Duda’s decision will be published in the Journal of Law, but no later than five days since the announcement of the date, according to the state-run PAP news agency.

It comes as concerns in Poland have risen about the presence of Wagner fighters across its northeastern border in Belarus, where they have arrived by the thousands since a short-lived mutiny in Russia in June. In response, Poland has beefed up its military defences along the border, moving more than 1,000 troops to the area.

Tensions have also been growing with ally Ukraine, on the country’s southeastern border, over grain imports and historical memories of past ethnic conflict.

The governing party has been seeking to present itself as strong on national defence given the turmoil across its eastern borders. It has planned a large military parade on the August 15 Armed Forces Day holiday next week to show off new military equipment as it modernises its defences amid the war in Ukraine.

Poland’s leaders have made multiple visits to Kyiv to support the Ukrainian war effort following Russia’s invasion in February 2022. But recently, they have been taking a more confrontational stance with Ukraine as Confederation, which has been critical of helping Ukrainians, has been rising in the opinion polls.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies