Poland’s opposition parties have signed a coalition deal, paving the way for them to form a new government after winning the majority of votes in elections last month. But they will have to wait.
Donald Tusk, the opposition’s candidate for prime minister, announced on Friday that a deal had been reached. The group includes various ideologies, but united around strengthening Poland’s ties to the European Union.
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“We are ready to take responsibility for Poland in the coming years,” Tusk, a former prime minister and head of the liberal Civic Coalition (KO) told reporters.
The parties, which include Civic Coalition, the economically liberal Third Way, and the left-leaning New Left, garnered a collective majority of votes in the October 15 election.
But President Andrzej Duda has given the governing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which took more votes than any single party in the elections, the first shot at forming a government.
That effort is widely expected to fail, and the opposition, calling themselves the “democratic opposition”, have pledged to strengthen democracy in Poland after PiS was accused of undermining the independence of the judiciary during its eight years in power.
A series of judicial changes, instituted in 2019, blocked Polish courts from applying EU laws in certain areas and barred courts from referring legal questions to the top EU court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Those changes spurred the EU to freeze billions of euros in funds from the bloc’s budget apportioned for Warsaw, and the ECJ ruled in June that the changes violated the bloc’s standards on the rule of law.
The opposition parties have emphasised their desire to strengthen relations with Brussels to access those funds. The parties have also signed a series of pledges, saying that they will restore transparency to public finances and depoliticise state-owned firms.
Friday’s agreement also says that the parties will scrap a Constitutional Tribunal ruling from 2020 that instituted a near-total ban on abortion in Poland.
The country’s anti-abortion laws, some of the harshest in Europe, have provoked large-scale protests, including marches in June that kicked off after a woman who was five months pregnant died of sepsis.
There are few exceptions for abortion in Poland, even when the life of the mother is at risk.
“In our agreement, we found a common denominator for the issues we want to implement,” said Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the centre-right Polish Peasants’ Party (PSL).
“They concern: support for families, employees, entrepreneurs, the Polish countryside, education, healthcare and women’s rights.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also a focus of the group, which has promised to bolster Poland’s position in groups such as the EU and NATO amid “the unprecedented threat to our security caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine”.