Elections will be held in Poland on Sunday. Things get more exciting in Krakow. A post-communist was mayor here for 20 years. Who will be his successor?

Donald Tusk, Polish Prime Minister in front of a wall with hearts and campaign posters

Here's where things get especially exciting: Prime Minister Donald Tusk on the campaign trail in Krakow, April 3 Photo: Dominika Zarzycka/se

WARSAW taz | Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his center-left coalition are nervous: regional and local elections will be held across the country on Sunday. It is the first test of sentiment after the parliamentary elections in mid-October 2023.

The goal of Donald Tusk's conservative-liberal citizen platform is to repeat last fall's electoral success. This is not easy, because in the elections to the 16 Sejmiki (state parliaments), the 314 Powiaty (district councils) and the 2,477 municipal councils, almost 50,000 mandates must be distributed. Most of them are located in rural areas and small and medium-sized cities. But the political and social issues there are completely different from those of “big politics”: local and often very emotional.

Gap between city and countryside

In 2018, the national populist Law and Justice (PiS) party won local elections. Only the large and prestigious cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, Danzig, Stettin, Wroclaw, Poznan and Lublin turned to the liberal politicians of the PO, the left and the non-party citizen initiatives. In total there were more than 20 major cities.

PiS, on the other hand, only won four large cities, but 62 medium and small cities and a total of 168 rural communities. That was the clear majority.

Only the peasant party PSL was able to score points in rural communities and small towns, while the PO and the left suffered bitter defeats here.

This year, however, the cards are being completely reorganized. Because there are a series of postulated parties that did not even exist in this constellation five years ago. For example, the Third Way alliance of Christian-agrarian parties, formed by the peasant party PSL and the new party Polska 2050. The New Left also appears for the first time as a new alliance of parties formed by the social democrats (SLD). and spring dyed green by Robert Biedron.

Tension in Krakow

In these elections, in Krakow, the cultural metropolis of southern Poland, things will be especially exciting. For centuries, the kings of Poland were crowned here. Poland's second largest city after Warsaw was not destroyed during World War II, but then in the postwar period it was deliberately neglected by the ruling communists. However, Krakow's supposedly conservative residents elected post-communist Jacek Majchrowski as city president in 2002.

Afterwards they were so happy with it that they chose it again and again. Months ago, the mayor with the longest tenure in office announced that this time he would no longer run for election due to age: he is 77 years old. His position is highly disputed. According to polls, independent candidate Lukasz Gibala has the best chance of becoming Majchrowski's successor. He is the only one who is being targeted by an anonymous smear campaign that must have cost several hundred thousand zlotys so far.

If he doesn't get more than 50 percent of all votes in the mayoral election, which everyone assumes, there will be a runoff. The first and second place winners would compete against each other in the second round. Donald Tusk and the PO hope their man in Krakow, Aleksander Miszalski, will overtake Gibala and become mayor of the former royal city.

Little surprises in Warsaw

In the capital, Warsaw, there are hardly any polls, no real election campaign, just some boring posters. Because the current mayor of the PO, Rafal Trzaskowski, is the undisputed favorite. The only serious opponent, Magdalena Biejat, of the New Left, was not sufficiently present in the media.

And the PiS candidate, Tobiasz Bochenski, seemed more like a humorless killjoy next to the nice son of the PO. Trzaskowski will probably win the election on the first try. However, Warsaw residents cannot be sure that he will not run again in Poland's presidential election in a year and a half.