Protest against the European Union’s Green Deal ahead of EU parliamentary elections, Warsaw May 10, 2024.

The EU Elections in Poland

The European Parliament elections on 9 June will be the third nationwide elections to take place in Poland in eight months. They are expected to set the course for the 2025 presidential elections and will serve as an important test of whether the new coalition of the liberal Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Coalition), the conservative Trzecia Droga (Third Way), and the social democratic Nowa Lewica (New Left) can maintain their hold on government in the long term.

In the elections to the Sejm (the lower house of Poland’s parliament) in October 2023, these parties replaced the nationalist, anti-EU party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice, hereafter PiS) in government. The far-right Konfederacja (Confederation) fell short of projected results and was unable to help the PiS secure a majority. However, as in the parliamentary elections, the PiS remained the strongest party in the subsequent municipal and regional elections in April, ahead of the Koalicja Obywatelska. Nowa Lewica and the even more left-leaning party Razem (Together) — which are running on joint lists in the European Parliament elections, as they did in the Sejm elections — fell behind their weak parliamentary result of 8.6 percent, securing a mere 6.2 percent.

The Left’s Struggle for Influence in Government

Significant tensions arose between Nowa Lewica and Razem during the process of selecting candidates for the joint list. The two parties form a joint parliamentary group in the Sejm. However, while Nowa Lewica forms part of the government, Razem has not joined the government because its demands were not sufficiently honoured during the coalition negotiations. This complicated constellation makes it difficult for Razem to assert its own public profile.

Nonetheless, Razem has been able to secure a very promising position for Maciej Konieczny, a well-known and experienced politician, giving Razem the chance to field a member of the European Parliament in the future. It is unlikely that Wiktoria Barańska, who is also running for Razem, will secure a seat.

Robert Biedron, Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, and Krzysztof Śmiszek are on promising lists for Nowa Lewica. If Nowa Lewica and Razem combined were to win four of Poland’s 53 seats in the European Parliament, this would be a major joint success that Nowa Lewica also urgently needs if it is to boost its standing within the governing coalition. This is due to calls from the camp of the conservative Trzecia Droga in the wake of the poor local-election results to replace the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, and Family, Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk (Nowa Lewica).

Women’s Rights at the Heart of the Left’s Election Campaign

As in the parliamentary and local elections, women’s rights are also of central importance to Nowa Lewica and Razem in the European elections. This is because Poland’s restrictive abortion laws, which only allow abortions to be performed in a handful of exceptional cases, continues to result in women dying because doctors are afraid of being prosecuted if they were to perform an abortion. The significance of women’s rights is also underscored by the fact that Katarzyna Kotula is the first ever woman to be in charge of Nowa Lewica’s election campaign, and that women are at the top of the lists in six of the 13 constituencies.

The Four-Day Week as a Proposal of Poland’s 2025 EU Council Presidency

Nowa Lewica is also entering the European election campaign with crucial trade-union demands. For the first time in almost 20 years, a government member, Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk, spoke at the May Day union demonstration. Responding to changes in the labour market, she called for a four-day working week to be introduced before the end of the current legislative period.

In an interview with the political magazine Krytyka Polityczna, she said that “in view of the upcoming changes and challenges”, shortening the working week would be “the next progressive step following the introduction of the eight-hour workday”. She stressed that a reduction in working hours should not be coupled with wage cuts and announced that this topic would also be raised during the Polish EU Council Presidency, which is due to commence in the first half of 2025.

In the same interview, she announced the government’s intention to strengthen the state labour inspectorate and reform the social security coverage of employment contracts. Current regulations allow employers to withhold a significant proportion of social security contributions from their employees.

Another objective of the new Polish government is to ensure equal protections for all employees working in Poland, regardless of their country of origin. A new collective bargaining law is also intended to increase Poland’s unionization rate, which currently sits at a mere ten percent.

Donald Tusk: Camaigning at the Expense of the Left

In the European Parliament elections, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his Koalicja Obywatelska are doing everything they can to surpass the PiS for the first time in ten years, even at the expense of their coalition partner Nowa Lewica, whom they are also endeavouring to marginalize in the government. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that the Civic Coalition is running Łukasz Kohut, Nowa Lewica’s former MEP, as a candidate for the European Parliament. Kohut recently left Nowa Lewica to run for the Koalicja Obywatelska. Dariusz Joński and Bartosz Arłukowicz, two other former left-wing MPs, are also running on the Koalicja Obywatelska’s lists.

A victory for the Koalicja Obywatelska in the European elections would improve its prospects of replacing the incumbent PiS-aligned President Andrzej Duda in the 2025 Polish presidential elections. Under the Polish Constitution, Duda has the power to block almost any government law with his veto, thus significantly hampering the government’s ability to act. The president’s veto can only be overridden by a three-fifths majority in the Sejm, which the governing coalition does not have.

In order to achieve this strategic goal, the Koalicja Obywatelska is entering the European elections on the back of some of its political heavyweights. Three high-ranking members of the Koalicja Obywatelska government are on the electoral lists: the Minister of the Interior and Administration, the Minister of Culture, and the Minister of State Assets. Additionally, Trzecia Droga is fielding a fourth minister, the Minister for Development and Technology.

Against this backdrop, it makes sense that Prime Minister Tusk chose to reshuffle the government on 10 May. The four ministers running for the European Parliament were replaced by other representatives from their respective parties.

Former Culture Minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz in particular has played a prominent and controversial role since his appointment in December 2023. During its time in office, the PiS had turned the public media into a mouthpiece for its party propaganda. Since President Duda could have vetoed the dismissal of existing public media management boards, Sienkiewicz was able to dissolve them without further ado and then re-establish them with new leadership.

The step taken by Sinkiewicz is controversial from a constitutional standpoint, and is one for which he has been heavily criticized. However, Prime Minister Tusk thanked him, saying: “I would like to thank you on my behalf and on behalf of the entire public for remedying the situation in the public media, which was one of the fundamental tasks of the governing coalition, both politically and organizationally.”

Instrumentalizing the Farmers’ Protests

The former governing party PiS is attempting to instrumentalize the farmers’ protests against falling prices due to cheap imports from Ukraine and against financial burdens imposed by the European Green Deal in its European election campaign. Together with the farmers’ union Solidarność Rolników, it called for a demonstration on 10 May. The extent to which this strategy will be able to exploit citizens’ reservations about an economically focused European Union by framing it in nationalistic terms remains to be seen. In any case, the PiS remains a significant political force in Poland, and Polish society continues to be deeply divided.


Voter turnout will be crucial in determining the outcome of the European Parliament elections. Turnout was around 24 percent in 2014 and 46 percent in 2019. Higher turnout in rural areas would benefit the PiS, while Razem and the governing parties enjoy particularly strong support in large and medium-sized cities. Mobilizing voters in this third election campaign within eight months will be a challenge for all parties, with the PiS receiving tremendous support from a segment of the Catholic clergy. Catholic clergy have appealed to members of the church to resist “foreign ideologies”— alluding to women’s and queer rights, for example — to support a “Europe of homelands”, and to defend traditional Christian values.


Achim Kessler directs the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Warsaw Office.

Translation by Juan Diego Otero and Louise Pain for Gegensatz Translation Collective.