Concerns about democracy have made this one of the country's most momentous elections since the fall of communism 30 years ago.

A woman walks in front of election banners in Warsaw, Poland October 12, 2019.
A woman walks in front of election banners in Warsaw, Poland October 12, 2019. (Reuters)

Poland's ruling conservative party has targeted gays as a campaign tactic, its programming on state media has drawn comparisons with communist-era propaganda, and it has asserted so much control over the judicial system that the European Union has declared the rule of law 'at risk.'

Yet the Law and Justice party heads into Sunday's election to the 460-seat lower house and the 100-seat Senate as Poland's most popular party, largely thanks to generous social spending and an assertive Poland-first stance toward the EU and other countries.

Concerns about democracy have made this one of the country's most momentous elections since the fall of communism 30 years ago. Critics fear Poland's illiberal turn could become irreversible if the party wins another four-year term.

In a sign of the deep divide in Polish society, the party's supporters approve of its conservative defence of the traditional family. 

For a country whose fate was largely controlled by foreign powers for much of the past two centuries, many Poles like to project strength to the outside world and credit the powerful party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski with defending the nation's interests when it takes a defiant stance to European partners.

Kaczynski does not hold any formal role in government, but is widely seen as the most powerful man in Poland, picking the prime minister and the Cabinet from behind the scenes.

Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, who won the 2018 Nobel prize for literature on Thursday, is one who believes these are the most important elections since 1989.

"I think this is a choice between democracy and authoritarianism," Tokarczuk said on Friday in Germany, where she was on a book tour.

Kaczynski's party has been campaigning under the slogan "A Good Time for Poland," and many agree the country is better off than it has been for much of the past century after almost 30 years of steady economic growth and recent generous social spending policies.

Source: AP