Mon, 18 Nov 2019

Voters in Poland, Hungary Vote in Parliamentary Elections

Voice of America
13 Oct 2019, 22:05 GMT+10

Poles are voting Sunday in a parliamentary election that the ruling party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski is favored to win easily, buoyed by the popularity of its social conservatism and generous social spending policies that have reduced poverty.

Law and Justice is the first party since the fall of communism to break with the austerity of previous governments. Those free-market policies took a moribund communist economy and transformed it into one of Europe's most dynamic.

However, many Poles were left out in that transformation and inequalities grew, creating grievances that Law and Justice has addressed skillfully. Its most popular program, called 500+, gives away 500 zlotys ($125) to families per month per child, taking the edge off poverty for some and giving more disposable income to all recipients.

However, many of the party's liberal critics fear that another four-year term for Law and Justice will reverse the achievements made three decades ago in this Central European nation, long hailed as a model of democratic transformation.

They cite an erosion of judicial independence, pluralism and minority rights since the party took power in 2015.

More than 30 million people in this nation of 37 million are qualified to vote. They are choosing lawmakers in the 460-seat lower house of parliament and in the 100-seat Senate.

Challenge in Hungary

One country away, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's dominant right-wing Fidesz party is facing a challenge from opposition parties who are backing a joint candidate in many cities in local elections nationwide.

Fidesz has been easily winning local, national and European Parliament elections since 2010, but a more unified opposition and the release of a video showing one of the party's best-known mayors, former Olympic champion gymnast Zsolt Borkai, participating in an orgy on a yacht have shaken up the last days of the campaign.

More than 8 million people are eligible to vote Sunday for more than 3,000 mayors and 17,200 local council members elected for five-year terms.

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