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Poland’s Law and Justice party loses power after eight years of authoritarian rule

By Rob Picheta, CNN

(CNN) — Poland’s populist Law and Justice Party has lost a confidence vote to end its authoritarian eight-year stint in power, paving the way for Donald Tusk to take charge of the country this week.

The party, known by the acronym PiS, fell well short of a parliamentary majority in October’s general election but for two months had tried in vain to find a coalition that could keep it in power.

Monday’s vote along partisan lines concluded that process, and completed an era of PiS rule that had alarmed international bodies and intensely divided Polish society.

Centrist politician Tusk, who earned a clear path to power in October, will now at last have a chance to formalize his coalition. He is expected to become prime minister in a matter of hours, and then put his coalition to a confidence vote later this week that he is all but certain to win.

PiS had orchestrated an illiberal transformation of Poland since coming to power in 2015, seizing greater control of the country’s judiciary, public media, cultural institutions and companies, and cracking down on the rights of migrants, women and LGBTQ+ people.

But it failed to win an unprecedented third term in October’s election, in a vote that was dominated by the cost of living, the war in Ukraine, and Poland’s place in Europe.

PiS did win more seats than any other single party, and the country’s PiS-aligned President, Andrzej Duda, gave the party every chance to form a government, despite all other groups insisting they would not agree to govern alongside them.

Tusk, who previously served two terms as Poland’s prime minister from 2007 – and then became the EU Council President for five years – will now look to wind back the consequences of PiS’ transformation of the Polish state.

But he will need to contend with a president and a courts system that favors the former ruling party, and must also appease a diverse coalition ranging from left-wing to center-right lawmakers.

This story has been updated.

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CNN’s Niamh Kennedy contributed reporting

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