Category Archives: Poland


Poland – New (old) government

A month after the legislative election in Poland, the new government has been announced. Given the incumbent team did well, it is no surprise that there is no change.

As expected, PM Donald Tusk will head a two-party coalition of the Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People’s Party (PSL).

As before, the PSL will have three seats in the cabinet. There are also six independents.

There are details in the Warsaw Voice.

Poland – Legislative election

In Poland, elections to both the Sejm and the Senate were held on Sunday. Here is the result of the Sejm election (2007 in brackets).

Civic Platform (PO) – 39.2% (-2.3), 206 seats (-3)
Law and Justice (PiS) – 29.9% (-2.2), 157 seats (-9)
Palikot’s Movement (Ruch Palikota) – 10.0% (+10), 40 seats (+40)
Polish People’s Party (PSL) – 8.4% (-0.5), 30 seats (-1)
Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) – 8.2% (-5), 26 seats (-27)
Poland Comes First (PJN) – 2.2% (-), 0 seats (-15)

The incumbent government is a coalition of the PO and the PSL. Given the Ruch Palikota is a break-away party from the PO, the incumbent parties did pretty well and are likely to renew their alliance.

Guest post – Iain McMenamin on Poland

Poland’s parliamentary election on October 9 is likely to be historically unexciting. The main governing party, Civic Platform (PO), currently has 44% in the polls, against 32% for its main rival Law and Justice (PiS). This lead has narrowed from a 22-point advantage in June.

In 2007, younger voters’ antipathy to the inward- and backward-looking PiS played a major role in PO’s triumph. They may not be so motivated to turn out for a bland, but seemingly invincible, government. Moreover, research shows that many PiS voters are reluctant to express their party political preference. Nonetheless, it looks like post-communist Poland will re-elect a government, or the main governing party, for the first time. It also seems that the four parties elected to the current parliament will be the only ones represented in the next parliament. PO’s Peasant Party coalition partners are, as usual, hovering around the five per cent threshold, but their concentrated, rural constituency is better for elections than it is for opinion polls. The Democratic Left Alliance has eleven percent of popular support and is also a possible coalition partner for PO.

PO has become a very pragmatic party that straddles the centre of Polish politics. Perhaps worryingly, its success looks like that of the old Christian Democrats in Italy, or Fianna Fáil in Ireland. Of course, much of this success is its competitor’s failure. PiS, and in particular its leader Kaczyński, cannot break into the centre from the right: they are too associated with conspiracy and rancour. Indeed, the Smolensk tragedy, in which the then president and twin brother of the PiS leader died, has not been to the party’s advantage. Every time more details about the crash, or controversy about commemorating its victims, enter the news, Poles are reminded of the emotional politics of the right. PO has benefitted from a good economic performance, which began under the PiS-led government from 2005 to 2007: Poland was the only country in the EU to register economic growth in 2009. Previous large governing parties have been destroyed by spectacular corruption scandals. PO managed to contain a scandal linking them to bribes from the gambling industry.

President Bronisław Komorowski, who left PO on assuming the presidency, has stayed well away from the campaign. Premier Donald Tusk’s decision not to contest last year’s presidential election increased his power and the parliamentary focus of Polish politics. The nearest thing to a semi-presidential controversy in the current campaign came when PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, said he would work with the president if elected. PO seized on this opportunity to remind the electorate of the emotional, bitter, chaotic side of Kaczyński. However, in general, Kaczyński has learnt the lessons of recent elections, and projected a reasonable, moderate image on the hustings.

Poland – Presidential vetoes

This is just a quick update on presidential vetoes.

In Poland, as far as I can tell, President Komorowski has vetoed two bills since he came to office in August 2010.

As posted in January, he sent a Bill on the rationalisation of employment in the government-funded budgetary units to the Constitutional Tribunal.

In March, he vetoed a Bill on the establishment of a military aviation college in Dęblin. There is information here.

In August, as posted here, he vetoed a Bill on genetically modified organisms.

To confirm, Poland is not currently experiencing a period of cohabitation. So, President Komorowski is vetoing Bills passed by the government of his own party.

Perhaps not coincidentally, President Komorowski is extremely popular at the moment. There is a report on his high poll ratings here.

Poland – Opinion poll

In Poland, Polskie Radio is reporting the results of an opinion poll taken in the run up to the parliamentary elections on 9 October.

The poll shows the ruling Civic Platform well ahead on 46%. The opposition Law and Justice recorded 29%. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance was on 11%. The Polish Peasants’ Party, which is in coalition with the Civic Platform scored 7%.

These were the only parties that scored more than the 5% threshold.


Poland – President vetoes bill

In Poland, the Warsaw Business Journal is reporting that President Bronisław Komorowski has vetoed a bill on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Apparently, the previous government outlawed all use of GMOS. However, this was ruled by the European Court of Justice to be contrary to European law. Therefore, the law had to be revised.

The current government recently passed a new bill on GMOs, but the president has now vetoed it. The president’s veto can only be overridden by a 3/5 majority in the Sejm. Such a majority is unlikely to be forthcoming and a new bill will have to be drafted.

Poland – President refers bill to Constitutional Tribunal

In Poland, Warsaw Voice reports that President Bronisław Komorowski has sent a bill that proposes a 10% cut in public services to the Constitutional Tribunal.

The president’s power to refer a bill is captured in Arts. 122, 188 and 191 of the 1997 Constitution and is described on the Constitutional Tribunal’s own website: “Every statute adopted by the Parliament is subsequently submitted to the President for signature; within 21 days of its submission – seven days in case of statutes considered urgent – the President may refer the statute to the Sejm for its reconsideration (presidential veto). The Sejm may repass the statute (override the presidential veto) by a three-fifths majority vote; in such case the President signs the statute within seven days. The President may also refer to the Constitutional Tribunal for adjudication on the conformity of a statute to the Constitution; the President may question the constitutionality of the statute in its entirety or of its specific provisions.”

So, this power is very similar to that of the Irish President described in a previous post, with the important caveat that the Polish President also has the power to veto a bill, something which the Irish President does not.

Anyway, in Poland the presidential power to ask the Constitutional Tribunal to review a bill is used quite frequently, though this is President Komorowski’s first referral since he was elected in July 2010. Indeed, Wyrzykowski and Cielen (European Constitutional Law Review, p. 260) provide figures showing that the power is used both during cohabitation and unified government. Currently, Poland is experiencing unified government.

Poland – Local elections 2nd round

The second round of local elections in Poland was held on 5 December. For those of us in countries where the incumbent government is very unpopular, it comes as quite a surprise to find that in Poland the opposite seems to be the case.

The Warsaw Voice is reporting that the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party won four out of eight mayoral positions in the country’s largest cities where a second ballot was required. The turnout was low at 35.3%.

The report indicates that the PO won in Łódź, Lublin, Bydgoszcz and Opole. In the other four largest cities, Krakó, Poznań, Olsztyn and Szczecin, independent candidates won, though the candidate in Krakó was supported by the opposition SLD party. The opposition PiS party won Radom.

Meanwhile, Warsaw Voice is also reporting that the opposition PiS is splintering, though party switching is normal in the Polish context. Anyway, a new group, Polska Jest Najważniejsza (Poland Comes First), has been formed by Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, who was previously the coordinator of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński’s presidential campaign.

Generally, it seems as if the opposition is in bad shape in Poland.

Poland – Local elections

On Sunday, local elections were held in Poland. The take-home point seems to be that the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party has done well.

The Warsaw Business Journal reports that the incumbent PO mayor of Warsaw has been re-elected at the first ballot. In Białystok and Gdańsk the same scenario applies. In most places there will be a second round of voting in two weeks time. The Warsaw Voice is reporting that PO candidates got most votes in seven cities, the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in two and the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) in one.

Elections for so-called voivodeship councils (Sejmik) were also held. These seem to be regional councils, but with very few powers. However, they are useful in that Warsaw Business Journal is reporting overall results for the parties. The figures are:

Civic Platform (PO) 31.43 per cent
Law and Justice (PiS) 23.07 per cent
Polish People’s Party (PSL) 15.65 per cent
Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) 15.3 per cent
Voter turnout was 46.32 per cent

These figures compare with an exit poll for the local elections in general and reported by newser, which has the PO at 34 per cent, the PiS at 27 per cent, the SLD at 16 per cent and the PSL at 13 per cent. So, together, the two sets of figures seem to give a general picture of the current state of the parties in Poland.

Poland – When did semi-presidentialism begin?

In a previous post on Ukraine, I posed the question of when countries in the former Soviet Union should start to be classed as semi-presidential. This is, for me, an important question because in the near chaos of the collapse of communism/declarations of independence most of these countries reacted by simply grafting a directly elected president on to their Soviet-era parliamentary-like constitutions. These countries then held direct presidential elections and only subsequently set about drafting a new constitution. Sometimes, there was up to a five year gap between the fall of communism and new consolidated constitutions. Given this blog uses a constitutional definition of semi-presidentialism, I need to know when a country was constitutionally semi-presidential in order to determine its start date. However, this is no easy task. The initial changes were often made by way of piecemeal laws that are often difficult to obtain.

Anyway, this week I was able to resolve at least one country to which this question is relevant. Even though it was, obviously, not part of the former USSR, Poland underwent a similar amendment process when the communist system began to collapse. Having identified various documents and with the kind help of a friendly Polish-speaking colleague, I have been able to piece together Poland’s semi-presidential history. The information in this post will not be news to Poland experts, but at least it helps to get the information out to a wider audience.

Poland’s constitution dated back to 1952. In April 1989 Round-Table Talks were held between the communists and the Solidarity opposition. This led to the delightfully named ‘April Novelization’ of 7 April 1989 that changed the constitution. With regard to semi-presidentialism, the key amendment was the creation of the office of a president of Poland. This institution replaced the communist-style collective institutions. However, at this time the president was elected by parliament. In December 1989 there were further amendments that, in effect, ended the communist system, but these amendments did not affect the presidency etc. Instead, the significant change came in September 1990 when another amendment was passed that created a directly elected presidency. The first direct election was held in December 1990. A new but nonetheless interim constitution was passed in 1992 and the current constitution dates from 1997.

I have the text of the various amendments (in Polish!), but they are not publicly available, as far as I know. I was able to access them via a library subscription from my home institution. If you would like a copy, then please just let me know.

The bottom line is that semi-presidentialism in Poland dates from September 1990.