LEGIONOWO, Poland — There is a lot Izabela Godlewska does not like about Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party. Its talk of tightening already draconian abortion laws and restricting in vitro fertilization makes her uncomfortable, as does the country’s creeping autocracy.

But there are upsides. “They give money away left and right,” she explained.

For her two boys — both blond and blue-eyed, and, on a market outing this week, bundled up in matching blue coats and hats — she receives a monthly government stipend of 1,000 zloty, or $255.

That is no trifling amount in a country where the average wage is about $900 a month. Law and Justice has also boosted pensions and promised to nearly double the minimum wage.

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When Poland holds elections on Sunday, the populist party is expected to come out on top once again. It is polling at between 40 and 45 percent of the vote, comfortably the largest party and up from the 38 percent it won in 2015.

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Law and Justice has built a loyal following in this conservative Catholic-majority country, tapping into anti-establishment and anti-immigration sentiment, promoting “family values” and demonizing the LGBT community.

But analysts say the wildly popular payouts have helped the party win support beyond its base and created a sense that people’s monthly incomes are tied to the ruling party’s continuation in power.

Generous welfare benefits are common across Europe, but they do not usually represent such a large proportion of income, and they are not typically seen as dependent on a particular political party.

Law and Justice has built two electorates, said Slawomir Sierakowski, founder of the Krytyka Polityczna magazine and a senior fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

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“There’s one that is very ideological, very dedicated, and will vote for them no matter what,” he said. “But now they also have voters who vote against their convictions. They see the scandals and the propaganda, but feel it is their only choice financially.”

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In a study of voting preferences ahead of the elections, Sierakowski and University of Warsaw sociologist Przemyslaw Sadura found that social welfare was the main factor driving new voters to Law and Justice.

“Law and Justice did something that rarely happens in Poland: They kept promises,” Sadura said.

The “500 plus” program — giving families 500 zloty monthly for each child — was a 2015 campaign promise. Initially, it applied only to second-born and subsequent children. But in the past month it was extended to firstborn children, as well. Families received a bumper three-month payout — just ahead of the election — sparking accusations of vote-buying from the opposition.

The main opposition party, the Civic Coalition, initially criticized the government for draining the budget and diverting cash from badly needed infrastructure projects. But now, realizing the popularity of the handouts, the Civic Coalition is promising to add more. 

The opposition, though, is weak and lacks trust among voters — a testament to the success of Law and Justice, said Lukasz Pawlowski, managing editor of the Kultura Liberalna liberal online weekly.

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The center-right Civic Coalition is polling at around 26 to 28 percent — up from 24 percent in the last vote. The left-wing Lewica is expected to become the third largest party, overtaking Kukiz, a right-wing political movement headed by a former punk rock musician.

For the past four years, the main opposition message has been that under the ruling party, “democracy is ending, judiciary is no longer independent and fascism is coming to Poland,” Pawlowski said.

Concern is high outside the country. On Thursday, the European Commission referred Poland to the European Union’s Court of Justice for its political interference in the judiciary.

“But for ordinary citizens not much changed,” Pawlowski said. “They don’t see these dangers coming. What they see is they are doing fine, pretty well, and their wages are getting better.”

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Godlewska, the mother with the two boys, said she was still undecided about her vote. She is unsure if she is actually any richer with the expanded government support, as prices have risen at the same time. And she said she wonders about the sustainability of the social welfare benefits.

At the market where she was shopping in Legionowo, 15 miles north of Warsaw, Marcel Klinowski, a 34-year-old new face on the Law and Justice list, was handing out campaign material.

Concerns over the rule of law are just not relevant here, he said.

“Issues like that interest people in the bigger cities, not here,” he said. The town is split politically, with a mayor from the Civic Coalition. But Law and Justice is expected to win an extra seat or two in the constituency, Klinowski said.

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“Here, people want to have jobs and earn,” he said. “The economy is rising — that is the big present from Law and Justice.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader who in effect also leads Poland, has presided over several years of prosperity, with economic growth projected to reach 4 percent in 2019.

“Some people say this government is just lucky, that they are just at the right time of the cycle,” Pawlowski said. “Even if there are signs of recession, that certainly won’t happen before Sunday. Many people can think and believe life is simply getting better.”

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That might be an illusion though, he said. The cost of living has been increasing. Extreme poverty in Poland rose a percentage point last year, according to Central Statistical Office figures published by Polish media. Choosing to put money in people’s pockets rather than invest in the ailing health and education systems could eventually increase inequality, as the wealthier go private, Pawlowski said.

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For Law and Justice politicians, since their party is tipped to win comfortably, the main concern is voter complacency among their supporters, analysts say. Kaczynski has been personally hitting the campaign trail, focusing on the rural east and party strongholds.

Candidates clustered at train stations in Warsaw on Thursday, trying to swing undecided voters.

“Law and Justice will win, the question is how big the win will be,” said Bartlomiej Radziejewski, director of Nowa Konfederacja think tank and magazine. “It’s hard to say right now if the majority will be absolute. It depends on some factors which are hard to predict.”

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The party won 38 percent of the vote in 2015, but it was able to secure a majority because smaller parties failed to reach the threshold for Parliament.

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Law and Justice’s current polling lead comes despite numerous scandals, which appear to be of little concern to the voters. Public television, meanwhile, has repeatedly run recordings of opposition politicians in sometimes foul-mouthed and improper, but not illegal, discussions with business leaders.

“People don’t like politicians here in Poland, because they always steal their money and so on,” Klinowski said as he wrapped up the morning’s campaigning in Legionowo. So what’s the difference between the Civic Coalition and Law and Justice in the eyes of Poles? “Everybody steals something, but Kaczynski also gives some money back to people.”

Magdalena Foremska in Warsaw contributed to this report.

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