Category Archives: Poland


Poland – Presidential election, 2nd round

The second round of the Polish presidential election was held on Sunday. The Electoral Commission is reporting the following result:

Bronisław Komorowski – Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) 53.01%
Jarosław Kaczyński – Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) 46.99%

It might be noted that Komorowski was already the acting president following the death of President Lech Kaczyński in April. Therefore, the period of cohabitation that began in November 2007 ended at that time.

Poland – Jaroslaw Kaczynski to stand for the presidency

The twin brother of the late President Lech Kaczyński of Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, has announced that he will be a candidate at the forthcoming presidential election in June.

The deadline for candidates has passed. Warsaw Voice reports that 22 individuals have established electoral committees with a view to standing at the election. They now have to gather 100,000 signatures in order to be able to compete.

The main candidates will be:

Jarosław Kaczyński (Law and Justice, PiS)
Bronisław Komorowski (Civic Platform, PO)
Waldemar Pawlak (Polish People’s Party, PSL)
Andrzej Lepper (Self-Defense, SO)

Despite the wave of sympathy following his brother’s death, the polls suggest that Jarosław Kaczyński is trailing a long way behind Bronisław Komorowski, the acting president and speaker of the Sejm.

Poland – Death of President Kaczynski

It is greatly saddening to report that President Lech Kaczyński of Poland has died in a plane crash.

President Kaczyński was killed this morning as his plane was attempting to land in fog at Smolensk, Russia, where he and his travelling party were due to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet army at Katyń in 1940.

There were no survivors of the plane crash. Among others killed were President Kaczyński‘s wife, the President of the National Bank of Poland, the Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army, a number of deputies from government and opposition parties, various officials of parliament, and the president’s top adviser.

Poland – Presidential primary

In Poland the presidential election will take place most likely in October this year. The candidate from the ruling Civic Platform party is likely to stand the best chance of winning. The government is generally popular, whereas the poll ratings of the incumbent president, Lech Kaczyński, are not particularly good and he has not yet announced whether he will be standing again.

Earlier this year, the prime minister, Donald Tusk, from the Civic Platform announced that he would not be standing for the presidency. The current period of cohabitation has shown that the president’s powers are very limited. So, Tusk calculated that he would be more influential if he remained as prime minister.

Tusk was the natural frontrunner. So, when he announced he was not standing, the search for a new Civic Platform candidate began. Interestingly, the party decided to have a primary election. In the end, only two candidates stood. They were Bronisław Komorowski, the speaker of parliament, and Radosław Sikorski, the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Only party members were eligible to vote and voting took place by postal ballot and over the internet from 18-25 March. The result was announced late last week. The turnout was 47.5% (about 21,000 of 46,000 votes) with Komorowski winning 68.5% and Sikorski 31.5%.

So, Bronisław Komorowski will be the Civic Platform’s presidential candidate later this year.

Poland – Constitutional changes

As reported in a previous post, the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, recently suggested that there should be a set of constitutional reforms that would reduce the president’s powers and abolish direct election.

Anyway, Poland’s Voice reports that the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party, of which Tusk is a member, will be proposing a watered-down set of reforms in January. According to the report, “The Civic Platform will likely propose weakening the president’s powers to veto legislation, but will hold back from abolishing direct presidential elections, according to press reports.” One reason why the proposed reform has been weakened is because constitutional reform requires a two-thirds majority.

According to another report that quotes the head of the PO’s parliamentary group, Grzegorz Schetyna, the reform will weaken the president’s veto power and it will also reduce the number of deputies and senators, ideally by between 20% and 50%.

If passed, the reforms will come into operation after the 2010 presidential election.

Poland – PM proposes constitutional changes

In Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk seems to be getting more and more fed up of having to cohabit with President Lech Kaczyński. He is half-way through the legislative term and, yesterday, he proposed a series of reforms that would weaken the presidency, including election by the legislature.

There is a report in Polish here. There are also some details on the Warsaw Voice website. According to this report, Prime Minister Tusk proposes depriving the president of veto powers, and changing the presidential election process from a popular vote to a vote of the joint chambers of the Parliament. He proposed that the changes be introduced in time for the next presidential election, which is scheduled in October last year.

I am told by a Polish expert that proposals for reform of this general nature are relatively common and that they tend to die when they go to the legislature. Prime Minister Tusk has presidential ambitions, which perhaps makes the proposal more credible that usual, though if he knows that the reform is unlikely to be passed in parliament, then he can get credit for the idea and blame Kaczyński’s PiS (Law and Justice party) if they block the idea there.

Meanwhile in an opinion poll earlier this month from CBOS, Tusk’s Civic Platform party scored 38% (down three), while the PiS scored 18% (up one). The left-wing SLD was up slightly to 9% and the coalition partner PSL (Peasant Party) was at 5%, just above the threshold for representation in parliament.

Poland – Blackjack affair

In Poland, the government has been rocked by the so-called Blackjacj (or Blackjack) affair. There is information of the Polskie Radio site.

Allegedly (please note!), members of the ruling Civic Platform party lobbied on behalf of the gambling industry to stop proposed tax increases on betting. There is more detail here. So far, the scandal has costs the jobs of four ministers, the Interior Minister, the Justice Minister, the Sports Minister, and the deputy Economy Minister, as well as posts at the PM Chancellory, and the head of the Civic Platform’s parliamentary party.

The scandal is all the more important because it has a party political twist to it. The PM, Donald Tusk, accused the head of the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CAB) of acting politically in the affair. He has now been sacked from his post. However, President Kaczynski has backed the former head of the CAB. Remember that Poland is currently in a period of cohabitation.

Also, the events need to be seen in the context of next year’s presidential at which PM Tusk is almost certain to be a candidate. There is some evidence that the scandal has harmed the position of the Civic Platform. However, Tusk still seems to be the best placed candidate.

Poland – EP election

The EP election was held in Poland on Sunday.

The turnout was 24.5%. The EP is reporting the following results (2004 in brackets):

PO: Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform) – 44.4%, 25 seats (24.1%, 15)
PiS: Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice) – 27.4%, 15 seats (12.7%, 7)
SLD-UP: Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej – Unia Pracy (Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union) – 12.3%, 7 seats (9.3%, 5)
PSL: Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish People’s Party) – 7%, 3 seats (6.3%, 4)
No other party won more than 2.5%

In contrast to some other countries, notably the UK and Ireland, the incumbent Civic Platform/Polish People’s Party government in Poland did very well at the EP elections, even though the turnout was the third lowest in the Union. In the 2007 parliamentary election, Civic Platform won 41.5% and PSL 8.9. So, both have seen support for them rise. During the campaign, support for PiS, the President’s party, did increase, but their score was still behind their 2007 parliamentary elections core. Why do some incumbents do well in a recession, while others do so badly?

An article on the 2004 EP election in Poland can be found here.

Cohabitation – Poland

This is a series of posts that records the cases of cohabitation in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. Cohabitation is defined as the situation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Presidents classed as non-party cannot generate any periods of cohabitation.

Here is my list of cohabitations in Poland:

Dec 1991 – Jun 1992
President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Jan Olszewski (PC); Government – PC, ZChN, PL

Jun 1992 – Jul 1992
President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Waldemar Pawlak (PSL); Government – PSL, PC, ZChN

Jul 1992 – Oct 1993
President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Hanna Suchocka (UD); Government – UD, KLD, ZChN, PChD, SL-Ch, PPG, PL

Oct 1993 – Mar 1995
President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Waldemar Pawlak (PSL); Government – SLD, PSL

Mar 1995 – Dec 1995
President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Józef Oleksy (SdRP/SLD); Government – SLD, PSL

Oct 1997 – Oct 2001
President – Aleksander Kwaśniewski (SdRP/SLD); PM – Jerzy Karol Buzek (AWS); Government – AWS, UW (to June 2000)

Nov 2007 – April 2010
Lech Aleksander Kaczyński (PiS); PM – Donald Tusk (PO); Government – PO, PSL

Source of party affiliations and cabinet composition: European Journal of Political Research (yearbook – various years)

Party abbreviations:
AWS – Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność (Solidarity Electoral Action)
KLD – Kongres Liberalno-Demokratyczny (Liberal Democratic Congress)
NSZZ – Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy ‘Solidarność’ (Independent Self-Governing Trade Union ‘Solidarity’)
PC – Porozumienie Centrum (Center Alliance)
PChD – Partia Chrześcijańskich Demokratów (Christian Democrats Party)
PiS – Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice)
PL – Porozumienie Ludowe (Peasants Agreement)
PO – Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform)
PPG – Polski Program Gospodarczyl (Polish Economic Program)
PSL – Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish Peasant Party)
SdRP – Socjaldemokracja Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland)
SL-Ch – Stronnictwo Ludowo-Chrześcijańskiej (Peasant Christian Party)
SLD – Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (Democratic Left Alliance)
UD – Unia Demokratyczna (Democratic Union)
UW – Unia Wolności (Freedom Union)
ZChN – Zjednoczenie Chrześcijańsko-Narodowe (Christian-National Union)

Poland – Bill to regulate cohabitation

Poland is currently experiencing a period of cohabitation. President Lech Kaczyński was elected in December 2005. He is from Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS), or Law and Justice party. In October 2007 there was an early election and a coalition of the Platforma Obywatelska (PO), Civic Platform, and Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (PSL), Polish People’s (or Peasants’) Party, was returned with Donald Tusk of the PO as prime minister.

The cohabitation dynamics have sometimes been problematic. Most famously, in October 2008 President Kaczyński chartered a plane to go to an EU summit when Prime Minister had refused him a place on a government plane and, in effect, had tried to prevent him from going to the summit. There is a nice report here.

Anyway, the problems between the president and the PM are ongoing and so Warsaw Voice reports that a bill has been submitted to the Polish parliament that aims to regulate, or specify, the relationship between the president and prime minister, particularly as it relates to EU relations. According to Warsaw Voice, the bill “specifies that the government is responsible for deciding Polish policy on issues linked to EU membership, including economic and monetary union. The prime minister defines the details of the policy, which remains a state secret until it is presented at an EU summit or meeting”. Warsaw Voice also reports that “on the prime minister’s request, the government ‘authorizes a state body to take part in a meeting of an EU institution’”. In other words, the bill seems to be a direct attempt to make it more difficult for the president to be involved in or even aware of EU policy making and for the president to attend EU meetings. The government seems to deny any such interpretation.

According to the report, the details of which I have not been able to verify elsewhere, the bill has been submitted to the party caucuses and may be amended. There are also concerns that the constitutionality of the bill may be challenged and that it will have to be worded very carefully.