The ruling euroskeptic PiS party has emerged as the winner in provincial council elections that were seen as a test of support for the party. However, the opposition scored in a key race for the mayor of Warsaw.
Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party was poised to make big electoral gains on Sunday as an exit poll put the euroskeptic conservatives ahead of the opposition in regional elections across the country.
An Ipsos exit poll showed the PiS party taking 32.3 percent of the vote for provincial council member seats, with a coalition of opposition parties taking 24.7 percent.
The early results put PiS on track to gain an absolute majority in several regional parliaments in Poland, making it easier to push through government-approved legislation.
"We have won ... and this bodes well when it comes to the future, especially for the parliamentary election," PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said.
The regional elections decide the makeup of local governments and regional parliaments, including several mayoral races. The exit poll put voter turnout at 51.3 percent, up from 47 percent in 2014. Final results are expected on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Opposition candidate wins Warsaw mayor race
The opposition landed one major victory, however, in Warsaw's mayoral race. Pro-European Union candidate Rafal Trzaskowski garnered 54.1 percent of the vote, according to the Ipsos survey, beating out his PiS opponent, Patryk Jaki. Should the result be confirmed, Trzaskowski would win the race outright and would not have to take part in a runoff.
PiS candidates failed to win outright in other major Polish cities, meaning they will face runoff elections slated to take place on November 4.
Sunday's elections were the first test of support for Poland's ruling party, possibly foreshadowing legislative and European elections in 2019. Although the party has held an absolute majority on a national level since 2015, some of the government's policies have sparked mass protests and drawn EU criticism.
On Friday, the European Court of Justice ordered the Polish government to suspend its judicial reforms, which lowered the retirement age for Supreme Court judges and forced several into early retirement. The EU has warned that Poland's political reforms are undermining judicial independence and democracy in the country.
rs/cmk (AP, dpa, Reuters)