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Tusk seems to have convinced voters he is not to blame for the economic crisis.
However, despite the lackluster results for PiS, the election has confirmed that Poland has essentially evolved into a two-party system. Unlike in the United States or in most European countries, the division is not between left and right — both Civic Platform and Law and Justice spring from the Solidarity movement that helped overthrow communism. They both call themselves center-right, although PiS’s economic policies are more populist. Their big difference is over foreign policy — PiS is prickly, nationalistic and hostile toward Russia, Germany and suspicious of the European Union arrogating too much power to itself.
“We loudly say what we don’t like in the EU,” said Adam Bielan, a leading PiS political strategist. “We want more economic freedom in the EU and less emphasis on political integration.”
To that end, PiS is hoping to create a new eurosceptical grouping in the European Parliament with Britain’s Conservatives and the Czech Republic’s Civic Democrats.
The other two smaller parties that won seats were the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance, which won seven seats, and the agrarian Polish People’s Party, a member of the governing coalition, with three seats.
No other parties made it past the 5 percent threshold to win places in the parliament, a marked contrast to five years ago, when two populist eurosceptical parties won almost a third of Poland’s seats. Unlike in other European countries, all of Poland’s seats were won by mainstream parties with a presence in the national parliament.
In 2004, many Poles, especially farmers, were very nervous about joining the EU. However, over the last five years a flood of money from Brussels for infrastructure and farms has made Poland one of the most pro-EU countries in the union.
That positive attitude may be one of the reasons for a slightly higher voter turnout. This year, as many as 24.5 percent of Poles may have taken part, more than the 20.9 percent who took part in 2004, but still less than the European average.
More GlobalPost dispatches on the elections: