Poland’s local elections test Tusk’s new government


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Voters across Poland are casting ballots in local elections on Sunday in the first electoral test for the coalition government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk nearly four months since it took power.

Voters will elect mayors as well as members of municipal councils and provincial assemblies, an important exercise in self-governance that is one of the great achievements of the democratic transformation that Poland made when it threw off communism 35 years ago.

In all, there are nearly 190,000 registered candidates running for local government positions in the central European nation of 38 million people.

Runoff votes will take place two weeks later, on April 21, in cases where mayoral candidates do not win at least 50% of the vote in Sunday’s first round.

Opinion polls released in the days ahead of the vote showed the two largest political formations running neck-and-neck: Tusk’s Civic Coalition, an electoral coalition led by his centrist and pro-European Union Civic Platform party, and a national conservative party that governed the country from 2015 until last year.

Several other groups trail the two main groups, including the Third Way coalition, the Left and the radical right-wing Confederation party.

Tusk’s coalition government, which includes the Third Way and the Left, together won the national election in October. The result amid record turnout spelled the end of eight bumpy years of rule by Law and Justice, which was accused by the European Union of violating democratic standards with its changes to the judicial system and public media.

Tusk won on promises to reverse many of those changes and is trying to implement that program, but it isn’t easy. His attempts to restore independence to the judicial system are a long process that will require the passage of new legislation.

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