Statement from social organisations after the 2023 parliamentary elections

The CultureLab Foundation, initiator of the Mapuj Pomoc project, is among the 81 social organisations that issued a statement after the parliamentary elections. Its content focuses on proposals for civic legal reforms and socio-political initiatives to restore the rule of law, protect the rights of women, minorities, people with disabilities, care for the climate and the environment, develop education, culture, public media and promote social activism. You can read the entire statement below.

On 17 October, the State Electoral Commission announced the results of the parliamentary elections. With 35% of the vote, the United Right did not receive enough support to continue in power. A greater mandate of confidence was given to the three groups that have so far remained in opposition: KO, Third Way and New Left, for which 54% of female voters voted.

74% of those eligible to vote took part in the elections, including almost 70% of young people. Such a high turnout not only set a record in the history of democratic Poland, but included us among the top 5 European countries with the highest voter turnout. This is a great success for civil society and a major commitment for those who will now take power.

The period of great mobilisation of civil society around the most important act of parliamentary democracy, the parliamentary elections, has come to an end. Polish women and men confirmed their commitment to democracy, freedom and civil liberties, the right to decide who will govern and how on their behalf. This is evidenced not only by the record turnout, but also by the unprecedented involvement of dozens of social organisations and many thousands of people in activities for equal, universal and fair elections conducted in the run-up to the elections and on election day itself.

Monitoring the electoral law and process, how elections are organised, how election committees conduct and finance their campaigns, observing the casting and counting of votes, educational and information campaigns, social campaigns encouraging people to vote – all these activities are evidence of civic maturity and responsibility. They are also an expression of the effectiveness of solidarity-based cooperation between social organisations.

Social organisations, meeting social expectations, also formulated and presented cross-party, civic proposals for legal changes and specific social policies in the areas of restoring the rule of law, protection of the rights of women, minorities, persons with disabilities, climate and the environment, education, culture, public media, social activism. This action stemmed from a sense of responsibility for the shape and future of the Polish state and the integrity of our community. We have shown that we have an idea for a Poland in which everyone and anyone can feel at home and participate in creating solutions that affect them; that we are able to inspire political groups to dialogue and programme debate.

The elections, as we pointed out in our published positions, appeals, analyses and reports, were organised and conducted in a way that did not provide equal rights and opportunities for all groups. The United Right introduced last-minute changes that gave it electoral advantage. For political gain, it ordered a nationwide referendum on election day, which was in fact a plebiscite in support of its policies, a tool to discredit its competitors. On an unprecedented scale in Poland, they used state institutions and resources in their campaign, including the public media, the Polish Post Office and State Treasury companies led by Orlen. Government functionaries and political appointees abused their positions to campaign and to attack and slander political opponents.

Despite all these efforts, the vast majority of Poles voted against the continuation of the United Right’s rule, placing their trust in the three opposition groups. The high electoral turnout did not translate into equally high participation in the nationwide referendum ordered on election day. The 40% participation in the referendum determined the non-binding nature of its results.

We are facing a period of forming a new parliament and forming a government. As social organisations working for the development of democracy, the protection of human rights and the building of a strong civil society, we expect that the parliamentary majority and the government formed by the victorious parties will fulfil their election announcements and commitments: to restore the rule of law, rebuild the democratic structures of the state, introduce policies for the development of the country and social justice, and reforms responding to the civilisational challenges of the 21st century, including climate, environmental and demographic challenges. We count on them to do so with respect for the law and the rights of all, including the rights of women, children, minorities, people at risk of discrimination and exclusion, in accordance with the Constitution, with concern for all the men and women of our country, including those who voted for other groups or did not go to the polls.

The outcome of the elections sets civil society organisations the task of continuing to work towards strengthening, entrenching and renewing democracy, protecting the rule of law, promoting European values, increasing civic participation, especially among young people, who demonstrated on election day their willingness to participate in public life and their readiness for constructive debate. We must give them a voice and a space to act and influence social and political reality. We must also seek dialogue and understanding with those with differing views, work to build solidarity and mutual trust, strengthen social bonds, face the challenges of civilisation in solidarity, and revive the community.

As civil society organisations, we will point out errors, irregularities and deficiencies in public policies, demand their rectification and propose possible solutions. We will monitor the actions of public authorities and the institutions they manage. We will criticise, protest and intervene when the law is broken, democratic principles undermined, our civil rights taken away or restricted. This is the role and task of an independent civil society, which forms the foundation of a strong democracy.

Thank you to everyone who has worked and is working with us. Local government elections and European elections lie ahead. It is also up to us to strengthen Polish self-government and our place and role in the European community.