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“Opposition Unites to Oust Populists in Poland – Tense Days Ahead!

Poland’s strong pro-European opposition movement appears to have won a comeback victory, with exit polls and preliminary results suggesting a convincing lead over the ruling right-wing populist Law and Justice party (known as PiS). The success of the civic party “Civic Coalition” marks a shift away from a populism that has held sway in the country for the past four years. At a time when the European Union is grappling with a number of issues — from an influx of migrants to economic integration — the election of a pro-EU party in a major EU country is seen as a significant win that could help the bloc recover from recent uncertainty. Poland has been particularly critical of the EU in recent years. The PiS government has repeatedly used the bloc’s support for its policies as an excuse to further its own nationalist agenda and attempt to undermine the rule of law in the country. The leader of the Civic Coalition, Grzegorz Schetyna, has hailed the election results as a “victory of hope over fear” and has promised to rebuild bridges with the EU that the PiS government had taken down. He has promised a new path forward and an end to the culture of fear and mistrust that has pervaded the country under the PiS. The new government will have to begin the process of restoring relations with the EU, while also unifying a deeply divided nation. PiS had won the election in 2015 by running on a platform of anti-EU sentiment and populism, which has been slowly eroding support for the once-popular party. The result of the election has been met with both joy and unease. For some, the ousting of the populist PiS government is a sign of a return to a more hopeful and inclusive form of politics. For others, the victory of pro-EU forces is a reminder of the tense political environment that will still remain in Poland and many other parts of Europe. The new government will now have to face difficult challenges, particularly in regard to the economy and the continued influx of migrants. The election of a pro-EU government however, could lead to a much-needed new beginning for a country in dire need of a new direction.