Sunday’s general election in Poland are making history by having three women campaigning to lead the nation with one almost certain to win.
But the appearance of major social change may be deceptive. Prime minister Ewa Kopacz of the ruling Civic Platform is fighting to keep her job against a surging Beata Szydlo, who leads the conservative opposition party Law and Justice.
The third woman candidate leads a cluster of left-wing groups, and is not considered a serious contender. The situation may seem startling in a nation known for family values, but some see the dominance of women in the race as a reflection of Poland’s old male power structure. Unpopular party barons, experts say, are pushing the women forward to capitalise on voter weariness with a male-dominated political culture that has been defined by infighting, drinking parties and scandals.
Political analyst Kazimierz Kik said: “Women have become instruments in a political game. The party chiefs know that many voters are against them and that they cannot win. They know that women have softer manners and will not threaten their position as leaders, and put them forward.”
Polls show Law and Justice with a strong lead over Civic Platform, meaning Ms Szydlo, a 52-year-old ethnologist and relatively new figure on Poland’s political scene, is considered the top contender to be the next prime minister.
However, there is widespread speculation that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the sometimes radical party leader and former prime minister, could ultimately decide to take that job himself.
Although Mr Kaczynski has kept in the background early on in the campaign, He has been vigorously and openly active in recent days, fuelling speculation that he is only using Ms Szydlo as a softer face of the party to win votes.