Poland's ruling right-wing party tops the polls

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party has emerged as the big winner in the country's European parliament elections, taking over 45% of the votes following an aggressive campaign against a united opposition in a year of key elections.

Preliminary results from more than 99% of voting stations announced Monday by the State Electoral Commission suggest that the right-wing ruling party has a good chance of winning crucial elections to the national parliament in the fall and continuing its policy of social conservatism and euroskepticism.

It was the first ever win for the right-wing, nationalist party in European balloting and apparently its best ever in any election.

Analysts said the intensive campaign, with the participation of party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and quick containment of crises — from leaders' business dealings to revelations of child sex abuse by priests — contributed to its good showing.

"This is an impressive victory for Law and Justice given the number of crises that could have potentially damaged its image and the fact that voters were assessing its almost four years in power," said sociologist Jacek Kucharczyk, head of the Institute of Public Affairs think tank.

The Polish ruling party has a difficult relationship with the EU, which has put the country under scrutiny for what it sees as an attack on rule of law from legislation governing the appointment and regularion of the judiciary.

The biggest vote-getter, with some 450,000 votes, was former prime minister Beata Szydlo, who is remembered for launching the Law and Justice program of benefits for large families in 2016.

The ruling party's win signals a government reshuffle in the coming weeks. Some current ministers have won seats.

Kucharczyk also praised opposition leader Grzegorz Schetyna for forming the European Coalition of center-left parties that won some 38% of votes and is the only political force capable of competing against Law and Justice in the national parliament elections.

The strong showing for the opposition is where Poland's politics differ from those in Hungary, where the anti-migrant Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban was dominant by a large margin.

Poland has 52 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament, of which Law and Justice will take at least 24 and Schetyna's opposition some 22. Amid calls from all sides for participation, the turnout figure was an unusually high 45%.