Opposition parties in Poland won a stunning victory amid record turnout in parliamentary elections on Sunday, ending eight years of authoritarian rule by the radical-right Law and Justice Party and its allies.
Law and Justice, known by the Polish acronym PiS, has for years undermined democracy, media freedom, and judicial independence in the European Union's fifth-largest member state. But despite its efforts to entrench itself in power, PiS lost to an alliance led by the centrist Civic Coalition that also includes two smaller blocs of parties—one to its left and another on the center-right.
Final results for the all-important lower chamber released on Tuesday showed this opposition alliance winning a 54-43 majority of votes over PiS and the far-right Confederation alliance, which could have kept PiS in power had the two won the most seats, but the opposition instead secured a 248-212 majority.
While Sunday's historic result pulls Poland's democracy back from the brink, there's still a long way to go before the winners can fully reverse the damage PiS has inflicted. President Andrzej Duda, who was elected as a PiS ally, still has two years left in his final term, and the incoming government will lack the three-fifths supermajority needed to override his vetoes. It will also have to contend with courts packed by the right.
However, the new government will have the chance to dismantle PiS' control over the media, prosecute political corruption, and strengthen Poland's support for its embattled neighbor, Ukraine.