Poland’s prime minister celebrates after his party wins a string of cities in mayoral votes

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressed satisfaction on Monday after a series of candidates supported by his party won weekend races for mayor.

Candidates from his pro-European Union centrist Civic Coalition, or running with the party’s backing, won in a series of cities in the second round of local elections held on Sunday, among them Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw and Rzeszow.

“It is very difficult to clearly say who won and who lost,” Tusk said Monday. “But if we compare these results, especially in the most attractive places, on these attractive battlefields ... then I actually have reasons for satisfaction.”

“Law and Justice has simply disappeared in many places,” Tusk added at a news conference, referring to the main opposition party.

The results put Civic Coalition in a favorable position as the country looks next to elections to the European Parliament on June 9.

Mayors were chosen in a total of 748 cities and towns where no single candidate won at least 50% of the vote during the first round on April 7.

Candidates for Tusk’s party also recaptured cities where they had not held power for many years, including Zielona Gora, Legnica and Torun.

The local and regional elections were viewed as a test for Tusk’s pro-European Union government four months after it took power at the national level. Sunday’s second round strengthened the Tusk government’s leverage in the cities, which should facilitate cooperation on development projects and allotment of EU funds.

Tusk’s allies also won in some places in the first round two weeks ago, including in Warsaw, where incumbent Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski was an easy victor.

In the first round, the right-wing Law and Justice, prevailed on the level of regional assemblies in the country’s 16 provinces, where it took 34.3% of the votes, while Tusk’s Civic Coalition got 30.6%. Law and Justice governed on the national level from 2015-23.

Tusk’s socially liberal Civic Coalition traditionally has strong support in cities, while Law and Justice has a more solid base in conservative rural areas, particularly in eastern Poland.

Civic Coalition is the largest group in a three-party coalition that governs the EU nation of 38 million people. The coalition is pro-European Union but otherwise spans a wide ideological spectrum with left-wing politicians in the Left party as well as conservatives in the Third Way.