Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, buoyed by its popular conservative platform and generous social spending, was widely expected to win Sunday’s election, which is regarded as one of the country’s most momentous since the fall of communism 30 years ago.
More than 30 million voters were choosing lawmakers in the 460-seat lower house of parliament, the Sejm, and in the 100-seat Senate.
The ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski leaves a polling station after his vote in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019.
Law and Justice is the first party since the fall of communism to break with the austerity of previous governments, whose free-market policies took a moribund communist economy and transformed it into one of Europe’s most dynamic.
Critics fear that four more years for the party will reverse the democratic achievements of this Central European nation, citing an erosion of judicial independence and of minority rights since the party took power in 2015.
Polls over the past week gave Law and Justice between 40 percent and 45 percent support. The second-strongest force, the centrist pro-EU Civic Coalition, whose biggest party is Civic Platform, polled at around 25 percent of the vote. An alliance of three left-wing parties has polled between 10 percent and 15 percent.
Turnout at 5 p.m. local time was 45.94 percent, or almost 7 percentage points higher than at the same time in the 2015 election, according to the State Electoral Commission. The highest turnout of above 50 percent was in Warsaw and Poznan, cities traditionally supporting Civic Platform.
Law and Justice’s overhaul of the judicial system has given the party unprecedented power over Poland’s courts. The EU has repeatedly warned that the rule of law is threatened and has sanctioned the country, preventing some of the changes, but not all.
Exit polls will be announced when the polls close Sunday at 9 p.m. local time but official results are not expected until early in the week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.