WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will announce regional election results on Tuesday at the earliest, an election official said, after an exit poll showed the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) scored limited gains in Sunday's contest.
The eurosceptic PiS scored 32.3 percent backing in the race for regional assemblies but unexpectedly lost a landmark battle over liberal Warsaw in the first round of voting.
"When it comes to the collective results of the election they might be released on Tuesday, Wednesday," Wieslaw Kozielewicz, the deputy head of the electoral committee, told a news conference on Monday.
The PiS result indicated by the poll appears stronger than its result in regional elections four years ago, when it gained 26.9 percent, but worse than a 2015 parliamentary election tally of 37.6 percent.
In most cities a second round of voting will be needed to decide who will become their mayors.
The result puts a question mark over its ability to defeat the opposition, despite huge social transfers, record-low unemployment, high economic growth and a strong pro-PiS campaign conducted by state media.
"This is not a victory they (PiS) could be happy about, it's a Pyrrhic victory ... This skirmish was not in favour of PiS, but after three years in power this referendum did not go so badly for the PiS," Marek Migalski, a political scientist and former PiS European Parliament MP told TVN24 broadcaster.
The exit polls suggests PiS may be unable to rule in most regional assembly constituencies as two biggest opposition groupings - centrist Civic Platform (PO) in coalition with liberal Nowoczesna and agrarian PSL party - achieved a combined 41.3 percent of votes. In most biggest cities PO won.
"We always have had worse result in regional election than in parliamentary election," upper house of parliament deputy speaker and ruling coalition MP Adam Bielan told TVN24.
"The time for assessment will come only after the second round of regional election is conducted."
A number of factors contributed to the worse-than-expected outcome for the ruling party, including mistakes in the final days of the campaign that mobilised the opposition electorate.
On Friday the European Union's top court ruled that Poland should suspend an overhaul of the country's Supreme Court and reinstate judges forced into early retirement by PiS. The party that was accused by rights groups of breaching European norms by exerting too much power over the judiciary.
"We don't know what the government will do, but according to the EU court's decision that we've learned about last week, the judges can come back to work today," the Supreme Court spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz Editing by William Maclean)