Polish ruling populists take most seats in regional councils

The leader of Poland's ruling right-wing party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, casts his ballot in local elections that were the test of support for the party, whose policies have produced street protests and repeated clashes with European Union leaders,in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s ruling populist party, Law and Justice won 254 of the 552 seats in regional councils in local elections last weekend, with 194 going to the key opposition coalition, the state electoral commission said Thursday.

The official results indicate that Law and Justice, which won the national elections in 2015, remains the most popular party despite conflicts with the European Union and accusations of eroding the democratic system of checks and balances. Its approval has been boosted by generous welfare spending, its emphasis on Poland’s traditional values and a booming economy.

However, the pro-EU opposition coalition, a block led by Civic Platform, which ruled for eight years until 2015, won much greater support in the cities. The bloc, which also includes the smaller Modern party, won several mayoral posts, including in Warsaw, in Sunday’s first round of voting. It holds leads in several races to be decided in the Nov. 4 runoffs.

Having won 46 percent of seats nationwide, the ruling party has control of six of 16 regional councils, mostly in the southeast, but will have to seek coalition partners in three others. So far, no political force has announced its readiness to cooperate with Law and Justice.

The main opposition bloc won 35 percent of the seats and opened coalition talks with the agricultural Polish People’s Party, which got 13 percent. Jointly, they could control many regional councils when they take office in November.

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