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Second term awaits nationalist PiS as polarised Poles prepare to vote

WARSAW: Poland holds an election on Sunday (Oct 13) that is likely to hand the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party a second term in office, potentially deepening the country's isolation as unease within the EU about its commitment to democratic standards grows.

PiS is expected to win more votes than it did in 2015 and may get enough parliamentary seats to continue to govern alone – but the shift in the political climate that it has presided over in the past four years has polarised the country.

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The party has cast the election as a choice between a society rooted in traditional Catholic values and a liberal order that promotes a chosen few and undermines family life.

Opposition parties and Poland's European Union partners say the outgoing government has undermined the independence of the judiciary and the media and made Poland less welcoming for sexual and ethnic minorities.

"We can guarantee that Polish families are protected, that Poland's freedom is protected and that the Polish Church is protected against attacks," PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told supporters in its eastern rural heartland on Friday.

Polls open at 0500 GMT, and surveys show PiS winning 40-46 per cent of votes.

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That may give the party an absolute majority. But it might need to form a coalition, which would raise the possibility of the far-right Confederation – one of three smaller groups that might garner the 5 per cent of votes needed to enter parliament – becoming part of government.

Polling around 19-26 per cent, the centrist Civic Coalition – an umbrella group that includes the Civic Platform formerly led by EU Council president Donald Tusk – looks certain to continue forming the main opposition.

Its candidate for prime minister, Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, on Thursday accused Kaczynski of destroying democracy and seeking to sow further divisions.

"He is building a huge wall and creating great tensions," she told supporters on Thursday. "That is why I call on all people of good will … regardless of their political views: let's defend Poland against such … hatred."

CHURCH AND STATE

One of the foundations of the PiS' success is the way it has tapped into anger among the poorer Poles who had missed out on prosperity since the collapse of communism in 1989, mixing nationalist rhetoric with a vast welfare programme that an economic boom has allowed it to implement.

It has drawn on the deeply-rooted popularity of the Catholic Church. Top PiS officials regularly attend Church events and the party has espoused stronger religious values in public life.

The Church does not openly back any party but senior officials have given the PiS tacit support.

On Oct 1, Poland's senior bishop wrote that Catholics should vote for those to defend the right to life from conception, support family values and define marriage as between man and a woman.

During campaigning, PiS has called lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights an invasive foreign influence that threatens Poland's national identity.

The party has also shifted Poland's foreign policy away from the European mainstream, becoming a leading proponent of calls to take some powers away from the EU, with which Warsaw is embroiled in a long-running row over judicial and media reforms.

Brussels has taken legal action to force Polish Read More – Source