Foreign Policy Research Institute

+38 (044) 287 52 58

Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

What do the results of the parliamentary elections in Poland mean for Ukraine?

Parliamentary elections were held in Poland on 15 October and brought the first change of power in 8 years. In the elections to the Sejm (upper house) the ruling party "Law and Justice" (PiS) won with 35,4% of votes; the opposition union of liberal forces "Civic Coalition" got 30,7%; the coalition of agrarian parties "Third Way" finished with 14,4%; the party of new leftists "New Left"(Nowa Lewica) got 8,6%; the association of pro-Russian right "Confederation of Freedom and Independence" got 7,2%. PiS also won the Senate (lower house) elections with 34.8 % of the votes, and the following results coincide with the upper house: 28.9% for Civic Platform; 11.5 % for Third Way; 6.7 % for Confederation of Freedom and Independence; 5.3 % for New Left Party.

Although the PiS who is currently in power formally won, it did not get most seats. Whereas the coalition of the liberal "Civic Coalition" with "Third Way" and "New Left" will become the main force in the parliament. Parliament plays a crucial role in Poland's political system, serving as the body that deals with the executive and legislative branches and has a major influence on the state's foreign policy. Therefore, the elections are a key event for the future politics of Poland and Ukraine's place in it.

It was expected for PiS to not manage to stay in power three times in a row. There has never been a case in Poland when power has been in the hands of one party for more than two terms. Staying in power this time rather negatively impacted PiS. Its programme could not offer anything substantially new, and the crisis, inflation, quarantine, and unstable security situation had a negative impact on its reputation in one way or another.

In its election campaign nationalistic and conservative PiS tried to appeal to its core electorate by increasing social benefits and introducing new programmes in this domain, specifically on retirement. Before the election, the party also tried to appeal to the image of a "strong independent state" by being tough in negotiations, as in the grain dispute with Ukraine, or by voicing stronger criticism of the EU. But the main part of the eurosceptic party's campaigning this time was taken up by criticism and information campaign against its main opposition, the pro-European "Civic Coalition".

One of the frequent complaints from the EU towards PiS was the taming of the media and limiting the freedom and transparency of information. Indeed, during the years of its rule, the party ensured the loyalty of the country's biggest TV channels, which also allowed them to spread messages favourable to them. Thus, they tried to frighten Poles that if "Civic Coalition" won, they would face the "loss of Poland's sovereignty" to Brussels and Berlin, an increase of the retirement age, an "invasion of migrants" from Africa and the Middle East, and "takeover" of Polish society by LGBT. And Donald Tusk, the party leader himself has been called an agent of Berlin, questioning his loyalty to Poland.

The former Prime Minister Tusk has indeed always expressed very pro-European sentiments, and in the past has even chaired the European Council. But he traded his career as a European politician for the one of Poland. "Civic Coalition" also did not stay away from criticising its political opponent publicly but did not rely on it entirely it their campaign. Instead, they promised to promptly revise the social policy of their predecessors, especially the issues of abortion and minorities, to return freedom to the press and to restore good EU relations, which had been badly damaged by judicial reform, the human rights issues, and disagreements over financial aid projects. Tusk also expressed willingness to work on restoring Polish participation in the Reconstruction Fund and the Cohesion Fund.

Such ideas brought him the largest number of votes in the history of the independent Poland. At the same time, this election had largest turnout in history (74%). In addition, the number of young voters increased from 46% in 2019 to 68% in 2023.  There was also a large turnout of women and educators. It seems that contrary to PiS’s rhetoric not only Western Europe is interested in alternative social politics, but also a certain part of the Polish population as well.

For Ukraine, such changes are a generally positive outcome. Tusk has a very favourable attitude towards Ukraine, emphasising in every possible way the need for its military and political support and expressing full approval of its EU membership. Moreover, it is also important that unlike PiS, which began to phase out aid to Ukrainian refugees, "Civic Coalition" stands with continuing aid to the displaced and creating a more expanded and rationed social security programme for them.

It would also positively influence Ukraine's path to EU membership. Of course, PiS also supported Ukraine's euro integration, but there were disputes within the party about the necessity of making demands to Kyiv, regarding the policy of "historical memory". In addition, Eurosceptics could have used the negotiations on EU enlargement to make demands to the West that Europe should not be "federalised", and that Polish sovereignty should not be encroached upon. Such a position would certainly have led to an aggravation of disputes within the EU. At the same time, "Civic Coalition" seeks coherence with other EU countries and does not need to exploit nationalist issues. This does not mean that the problem of the Volyn tragedy Bandera’s image will disappear from Ukrainian-Polish relations, but it will be raised much less frequently and will not pose a threat of serious political aggravation. A well-established dialogue between the West and the biggest supporters of Ukraine's European integration will only help speed up this process.

In addition, such a change of power in Poland would negatively impact the Eurosceptic forces, which, unlike their Polish colleagues, are characterised by their anti-Ukrainian stance led by Hungary's Viktor Orbán and the "Fidesz" party. Poland and Hungary have indeed a long history of close relations. However, after the countries were led by national conservatives, this friendship has reached new levels. Together, Warsaw and Budapest created a kind of "Eurosceptic alliance" that actively opposed progressive values, migration, and the erosion of national sovereignty within the EU. Together they defended each other against criticism over press freedom and the rights of sexual minorities and supported each in judicial disputes for better funding terms. But the Ukrainian problem has brought discord to this coo-peration. It is clear, however, that PiS could not completely abandon such an ally. It has already become known that Orbán's advisers helped prepare the party's electoral programme.  And although Orbán has a new ally in the form of Slovakia, it is Poland that has always been the initiator and the main force in their co-operation. Undoubtedly, its transformation will have a negative impact on the Eurosceptic alliance.

However, despite the triumph, the "Civic Coalition" still has many obstacles on its way to actual power. Since there is no hard deadline for the formation of a new government, only that it should be formed within 6 months, much depends on the President. He must give a mandate to one of the parties to form a new government. The current President Andrzej Duda, the PiS representative, will be in office until March 2025. He could potentially delay the formation of a new government, which would build up internal tensions. However, this will not affect policy towards Ukraine, as Duda is one of the party's biggest pro-Ukrainian and pro-European representatives. Nor can it be said that he will be that interested in it, as he is finishing his last term and is planning a career in international institutions.

It should be noted here that, in general, there is a consensus among all the leading political forces in Poland regarding supporting Ukraine, with differences only in the extent and some issues. Even the left-wing forces, unlike their international counterparts, are in favour of military support for Ukraine. The only exception is the pro-Russian "Confederation of Freedom and Independence. " However, it has not gained enough seats to exercise real influence. Even a potential coalition between the Confederation and PiS is not a major risk for Ukraine. It is unlikely to happen, as it would not bring PiS the coveted majority. And although both parties are right-wing, they are very different in their policies. And in any case, the" Confederation" will not be able to bargain for the opportunity to influence foreign politics.

At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, PiS was indeed the best option for Ukraine, because they did not have the need to correspond to the Western policy on arms supplies. However, now, when issue of support for Ukraine has generally reached unity among European countries, the parties' positions are equivalent. Moreover, "Civic Coalition" can change the arms supply narrative from "righteous and independent Poland" versus "weak and short-sighted Europe" to calls for "unity of European values and ideas." In this way it would reduce tensions within the EU and stimulate further negotiations.

Therefore, in terms of relations with Poland Ukraine should expect either improvement or permanence. But the real danger comes from domestic issues in Poland. The real challenge for the opposition is to maintain the coalition, which consists of quite different political forces.

The parties' views also differ on the issues that were essential to their rise to power. While "Civic Coalition" and "Lewica" have progressive views on abortion, the representatives of rural agrarians "Third Way" have a more conservative viewpoint. There is also no unity on the issue of resolving the grain deal. So far, the coalition has agreed to continue negotiations and avoid counter-version issues. But they promised their voters to deal with them starting the first days of the election results. If the disputes will continue and no action will be taken, it will lead to frustration of the electorate.

In addition, the information war has not ended, but only intensified. PiS is trying to keep power by all means, including using its influence in the media to discredit the opposition. Even now, members of different forces are engaged in heated arguments on social media, accusing each other of policy faults. If such acrimonious hostility between the parties does not slow down and a method of transferring power is not found, Poland risks being trapped in political instability. At best, it will become less active in foreign policy, and at worst, it will be plunged into a political crisis. Such a weakening of Ukraine's main ally would be a big blow to Ukraine, and an invaluable gift to Russia.

The next six months will be the most challenging period for the coalition, and it needs to be consistent, strategic and united. To do this, it needs to be tough on the issue of transferring power, have a clear strategy for communicating with voters and each other, and not be provoked by the opponent. For its part, Ukraine should already start building ties and contacts with the new Polish authorities, with whom, despite being favourable to each other, it has few developed ties, especially at the highest levels of power.

1. Results of voting in 2023 elections for Sejm, 27.10.2023, URL:
2.  'No Country for Old Men': How young voters helped swing the elections in Poland,27.10.2023, URL:
3. Doradcy Orbana pomagali w kampanii PiS. B?aszczak reaguje na s?owa Siemoniaka o liczebno?ci armii [NA ?YWO],27.10.2023,URL:,75398,30322370.html