October 26, 2015 / 9:45 PM / 2 years ago

Poland's eurosceptic conservatives win national vote

5 Min Read

The leader of Poland's main opposition party Law and Justice (PiS) Jaroslaw Kaczynski addresses after the exit poll results are announced in Warsaw, Poland October 25, 2015.Pawel Kopczynski

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's eurosceptic opposition conservatives, the Law and Justice party (PiS), won Sunday's general election, preliminary official results showed on Monday, as the country shifted towards nationalism and left-leaning economics.

PiS secured 37.6 percent of the vote, the country's election body said, with the ruling Civic Platform (PO) coming in second with 24.1 percent.

An official division of parliamentary seats was not available yet, but analysts said the result would likely give PiS a small absolute majority, marking the biggest victory by a single party since Poland shed communism in 1989.

"The success of Law and Justice is beyond doubt. The party will most likely have an outright majority," said Kazimierz Kik, a political scientist at the Jan Kochanowski University in the city of Kielce.

PiS returns to power after eight years in opposition, bolstered by a growing sense of unease in Poland over immigration and austerity abroad.

Once a party of primarily older, less educated people from small towns, PiS also appears to have broadened its electorate, tapping into growing discontent among younger voters over their share of Poland's economic success.

Led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of late president Lech, PiS has promised to increase state control of the economy, tax banks and stop privatization. It also wants to lower the retirement age and says 'no' to adopting the euro any time soon.

Its opposition to relocating migrants fleeing war in the Middle East and Africa to Poland will likely set it on a collision course with its key European Union allies.

The European Commission and neighboring Germany - which both had strained ties with the last PiS-led government that fell apart in 2007 - said they hoped for good relations with the new government.

It will not be led by the combative Kaczynski, but by Beata Szydlo, his party loyalist with no foreign policy credentials.

Analysts said PiS also benefited from a string of scandals linked to senior PO officials in the last two years, which had deepened many Poles' sense of a remote, clannish and self-interested political and business elite.

Deep Economic Changes

Rating agency Standard and Poor's said the outcome of the vote had no immediate impact on Poland's A- rating with a positive outlook, but added that policy measures planned by PiS could dampen investor confidence.

"We could revise the outlook to stable if we saw reversals regarding fiscal consolidation, macroeconomic management, or monetary policy," said S&P lead analyst on Poland, Felix Winnekens.

Poland's main stock market index rose 0.2 percent on Monday, but shares in some banks fell.

The zloty currency was broadly stable on Monday but remained near a nine-month low of 4.2968 per euro set last week on concerns over some PiS policy ideas. Ten-year bond yields rose about seven basis points on the day.

PiS favors a sharp rise in public spending and a larger state role in the economy. It also wants the central bank to launch a cheap lending program worth 350 billion zlotys over six years to support growth - an idea some see as undermining the bank's independence.

PiS aired plans to reap new revenues from next year with a tax on banks' assets and there were also signs it was confident of sufficient informal support in parliament from other parties to plan changes to Poland's constitution.

"Many party leaders have talked of wanting deeper change in Poland so, if we want to deliver that, changes to the constitution are vital," the party's spokesman on economic affairs, Zbigniew Kuzmiuk, said on Monday.

Final results are expected late on Tuesday.

Three small parties also won seats in parliament, including two new formations. Nowoczesna, a liberal, pro-market group led by former World Bank economist Ryszard Petru won 7.6 percent.

An anti-establishment party formed this year by rock star Pawel Kukiz scored 8.8 percent, and the agrarian PSL, now in the ruling coalition with PO, won 5.1 percent, the preliminary figures showed.

Additional reporting by Wiktor Szary, Pawel Sobczak, Adrian Krajewski, Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw, Lidia Kelly in Moscow, Writing by Patrick Graham and Justyna Pawlak, Editing by Ralph Boulton

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