In Poland, 15th October 2023 will be remembered as a day on which history was made. An astonishing 74% turnout, with record-high women’s participation (over 73% according to exit polls), makes this year’s parliamentary elections the biggest in terms of the number of voters in modern Polish history. The turnout exceeds even the first partially free elections that led to the abolition of the communist regime back in 1989 – and does so by a whopping 12%. Young women are likely to thank for that result, as the estimated turnout among women of 18-25 years old (known as supporters of the Left and the democratic opposition) largely exceeded expectations.
The elections were most likely won by the currently ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), with an estimated support of 34-37% of the voters. However, it is almost certain that despite the win PiS will not manage to form a new government, therefore leaving the possibility to formulate a cabinet to the opposition which – according to the exit poll – does have a parliamentary majority.
We expect PiS to attempt to hold on to power as long as they can by using all solutions available, which could delay the establishment of a new government even up to January. That scenario was already announced by Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of PiS, who declared upon hearing the first exit poll results: We are facing days of battle, days of various tensions (…). Interesting days are ahead of us.
The opposition-led government would almost certainly be formed by three electoral committees – The Civic Coalition led by Donald Tusk, The Third Way (a new coalition of two leading Christian Democratic parties), and The New Left.
Official results of the elections are expected to be announced on Tuesday, 17th October.
What does that mean for women’s rights in the country?
Firstly, the legal situation will not change anytime soon. Poles are still living under an extreme abortion ban, their lives often in danger in medical facilities.
FEDERA’s activities and goals remain the same for the upcoming months. We will keep on providing support to persons in need of an abortion or access to contraceptives.
As per advocacy endeavours, immediate decriminalisation of abortion is an absolute priority. Abolishment of possible criminal responsibility for providing an abortion is the only way to save lives and protect women living in Poland. FEDERA will actively push for changes to be introduced in the Penal Code, so that no medical professional can call on the fear of criminal responsibility for saving lives.
Additionally, FEDERA’s team is working on a package of draft bills and legal solutions that would drastically improve the accessibility of sexual and reproductive services in the country. The documents will be officially forwarded to decision-makers in the elected government in the first weeks of the new term. Our team is also ready to join ministerial expert teams working to develop systemic solutions to the crisis of sexual and reproductive care accessibility in Poland.
However, it needs to be noted that with all the damage done to Poland in the past 8 years, the new democratic government will have a number of matters to attend to. Between the judiciary crisis, illegal cutdown of national forests, severe abuse of the Constitution, and rumoured plans to put most notable PiS politicians before the State Tribunal, women’s rights may easily be forgotten or left behind. Women’s rights protectors, including FEDERA, will therefore need to stay vigilant and monitor the situation.