Czarek Sokolowski / AP Photo

Exit poll: Poland takes sharp right with vote

In parliamentary elections, Poland boots the centrist Civic Platform party for the anti-refugee Law and Justice party

Poland took a decisive turn to the right in its parliamentary elections on Sunday, tossing out the centrist party that had governed for eight years for a socially conservative and Euroskeptic party that wants to keep refugees out and spend more on Poland's poor.

The Ipsos exit poll showed the conservative Law and Justice party winning 39 percent of the vote, enough to govern alone without forming a coalition as had been expected.

The ruling pro-European Civic Platform party received 23 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll that prompted Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz of Civic Platform to concede.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice, promised his party would govern fairly.

"We will exert law but there will be no taking of revenge. There will be no squaring of personal accounts," he said.

Kaczynski credited his late brother, former Polish President Lech Kaczynski, with the party's strong showing. His brother was killed in a 2010 air crash in Russia that claimed the lives of many of Poland's top leaders.

If the exit poll results are confirmed, the Law and Justice will take 242 seats in the 460-seat lower house of parliament and 58-year-old lawmaker Beata Szydlo will become Poland's next prime minister. Civic Platform will get 133 seats and only three other parties will make it into parliament — two of them for the first time.

Law and Justice is strongly pro-NATO but more skeptical of the 28-nation European Union, of which Poland is a member. The party opposes adopting the euro currency and is strongly anti-refugee — positions that are expected to have a broader impact on the whole EU.

The Catholic Church was seen as backing Law and Justice, as were many Poles who have not benefited from the country's strong economic growth.

Law and Justice has promised to reverse an unpopular rise in the retirement age and put more money into the pockets of struggling families with tax breaks, monthly cash bonuses for children under 18 and free medication for people over 75. It also wants to raise taxes on the mostly foreign-owned banks and big supermarkets in Poland and give tax breaks to smaller local businesses and those that adopt Polish technologies.

The exit poll showed that only five parties gained enough votes to make it into parliament: Law and Justice, the centrist Civic Platform, a right-wing party led by rock star Pawel Kukiz, the Polish Peasants Party and the new pro-business party Modern Poland, led by a former World Bank economist. 

For the first time in Poland's postcommunist history, no left-wing forces appeared to have won enough votes Sunday to enter into parliament, according to the Ipsos exit poll.

Two left-wing forces had been in the running: the United Left, a coalition of several parties, and a new party, Together.

The Associated Press

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