Poland’s historic Parliamentary elections could mean a new government for Lithuania’s close ally – although the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party won the most votes, it is the liberal Civic Coalition, led by Poland’s ex-prime minister Donald Tusk, and the two smaller opposition parties that are likely to form a ruling coalition, Indrė Naureckaitė states in lrytas.lt
The news portal lrytas interviewed former Lithuanian Prime Ministers and recalled the more difficult phase of Lithuanian-Polish relations under the Tusk government and what the new government would mean for the already thawed relations between Vilnius and Warsaw.
The ruling party has lost its majority
A poll of voters published on Sunday shows that the ruling party won the elections but lost its majority in Parliament, with 36.8% of voters voting for the Law and Justice Party (PiS) and 31.6% for the opposition Civic Coalition (KO).
The centrist Third Way party received 13% of the vote, the progressive New Left party 8.6%, and the far-right Confederation 6.2%.
If the election results are as polled, the ruling PiS party will have 200 seats in the Polish Parliament – so while it would be the largest party in Parliament, it would have fewer than 231 seats and would not secure a majority.
Meanwhile, the Civic Coalition, the New Left and the Third Way would have 248 seats out of the 460-seat Parliament.
The leaders of these parties have already expressed their willingness to form a Polish government together, while PiS’s attempts to form a coalition may be hampered by the fact that no other parties have made clear their willingness to cooperate with them.
What happens next?
Political analyst Marius Laurinavičius told news portal lrytas. lt that he sees no possibility that PiS will somehow win a majority and successfully form a government – although it will certainly try.
“The game will be prolonged because it is evident that no matter how many votes the ruling party, PiS, gets, the current President, who is also from the same party, will entrust it to PiS to form the government.
Then, of course, they will not form it, even though they are already trying to attract all sorts of forces”, Laurinavičius predicted.
According to Laurinavičius, the divisions in Poland towards PiS are similar to those seen in America between Trump supporters and anti-Trumpers, so although the current ruling party is trying to woo the People’s Party (the Third Way coalition consists of Poland 2050 and the Polish People’s Party), there is no real chance of this happening.
“In some other circumstances, especially if they fall just short of a majority, it might be possible to win someone over, but in the current circumstances, I see no possibility that they could somehow get a majority and form a government,” Laurinavičius stressed.
According to the analyst, the Third Way has become the primary winner of the elections because everything will depend on them in this case – it is impossible to form a ruling coalition without them.
What will it mean for Lithuania?
So, what will the new Polish government mean for Lithuania, remembering the complicated relations between Lithuania and Poland during Tusk’s leadership from 2007-2014?
Laurinavičius admits that the relations between Poland under PiS and Lithuania have always been much better than eight years ago under the Tusk government.
However, the analyst believes that the current circumstances have changed considerably and that bilateral relations should remain broadly the same today.
“First of all, part of our bad relations with Tusk’s party was caused by ourselves – that is, by our failure to do our homework, our failure to keep our promises, part of which, with the legalisation of the letter’s “x”, “w” and “q” in personal documents, have been kept. This alone means that the situation has already changed – we have removed some of the stimuli”, he noted.
Moreover, as Laurinavičius recalled, under the Tusk government, Poland’s foreign minister at the time, Radosław Sikorski, personally tried to worsen Lithuanian-Polish relations, and now, with Sikorski’s tenure in the European Parliament, he is unlikely to play a decisive role.
“At least the political force itself will not intentionally worsen the relationship – for personal ambitions or other reasons, as it used to do. I don’t see any major conflict situations either, so there shouldn’t be many points that could lead to conflict,” he assessed.
Moreover, a future Polish government would not be a Tusk government, as the current government will be a coalition government in the true sense of the word – the parties will need to combine their interests.
Kubilius: “The problems have been exacerbated.”
Andrius Kubilius, a conservative MEP who served as prime minister between 2008 and 2012, said that he could not say that the relationship between his government and the Tusk government was complicated but that there were more acute issues.
“Perhaps the Polish side and the then Foreign Minister Sikorski personally escalated the issues about the so-called problems of the Polish minority in Lithuania, although there were no particular problems. They were raised emotionally at the time”, Kubilius told the news portal lrytas. lt.
The MEP stressed that both Tusk’s team and the situation in Lithuania have changed, many of the problems raised at the time have already been solved, and the perception of other problems in Warsaw has become more regular.
“I don’t think that any major tensions between Lithuania and Poland can be expected, and the fact that Poland’s relations with the EU will improve under the new government is good for Lithuania,” Kubilius said.
Poland’s conflict with the European Union (EU) could end if the current opposition takes power in Poland.
“In this way, Poland can take its rightful geopolitical place as the leader of central Europe. It could not do this while fighting with Brussels because our interests in relations with Brussels were opposite to those of the previous Polish government”, the politician assessed.
A change of government in Poland, according to Kubilius, would return a more balanced image to central Europe, which could have been better lately, given the political situation in Poland, Hungary and now Slovakia.
“Now it will possibly improve, which is good for Lithuania and for the whole region, because there is a need for rationality in Warsaw’s relations with Brussels Berlin and a rational understanding of why Ukraine needs to be assisted, even though it may seem to some that it is hurting one or other of the countries some that farmers in one or other countries are suffering as a result,” Kubilius hoped.
Butkevičius: “Relations with Tusk were good.”
Algirdas Butkevičius, who served as Prime Minister from 2012 to 2016, said he and Tusk had a good relationship.
“When I was Prime Minister, my relations with Tusk were good, but decision-making on the Polish side was difficult because it took a long time to talk. But he was quite supportive. As a person, as a personality, I did not see any fault with him”, Butkevičius told lrytas. lt.
He recalled that there were some challenges with Poland at the time regarding electricity synchronisation, but after some time, after meetings, successful cooperation between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in this area began.
According to Mr Butkevičius, Lithuania also received favourable decisions from the Tusk-led government on the Via Baltica projects.