Elections in Poland
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Elections in Poland refer to the election process, as well as the election results in Poland. Poland has a multi-party political system. On the national level, Poland elects the head of state – the president – and a legislature. There are also various local elections, referendums and elections to the European Parliament.
Poland has a long history of public elections dating back several centuries, beginning with the elections to Sejm in Łęczyca (known as the First Sejm) in 1182. Notably, since the Sejm of 1493, Polish kings were obliged to call regular Sejms and regional elections (sejmiks) every two years. From 1573 until 1795 the state system of elective monarchy in Poland required the royal elections of monarchs as well during the Sejm proceedings.
The first modern and free elections in 20th-century-Poland were held in 1919, two months after Poland regained independence in 1918 from the century of foreign partitions. After the Second World War, Poland fell into the Soviet sphere of influence and became controlled by the communists, who rigged the elections of 1947 to ensure they controlled the entire Polish government. There were regular elections in Poland from that time on; however, no elections until the groundbreaking elections of 1989, marking the fall of communism, were free. The Polish communists secured a majority of the lower house seats in 1989, but also, for the first time in the Eastern Bloc history, allowed opposition parties to gain representation; therefore the election was semi-free. All subsequent elections, beginning with the 1991 election are considered fair and free.
The first Polish Sejm was called in 1182. Since the Sejm of 1493, called by king John I Olbracht in 1493, Sejms were to be held every 2 years. There were also special Sejms when needed, for example the coronation sejms.
The most famous Sejms included the Sejm Niemy or the Silent Sejm of 1717 which marked the beginning of Russian control over Polish internal affairs; the subsequent Repnin Sejm or the Sejm of 1767/1768, whose terms were dictated by the Russian ambassador Repnin; the Great Sejm – or the Four-Years Sejm of 1798–1792, which voted for the May Constitution of Poland; and the Grodno Sejm – last Sejm of the First Republic.
Since the death of Sigismund II Augustus, last of the Jagiellonian dynasty, and following a brief period of interregnum, the entire nobility (szlachta) of the Commonwealth (10% of the population) could take part in the elections of the monarchs. Last elected king was Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1764. He abdicated in 1795 after the partitions of Poland ended the existence of sovereign state of Poland for 123 years.
It is disputed how free were elections held after 1926 were; in particular, the 1930 elections are often considered to have been non-free pl:Wybory brzeskie. Polish presidents were elected by the Sejm and Senate (Zgromadzenie Narodowe), not in a popular vote. Before 1922, the Polish Chief of State was called Naczelnik Państwa.
Only the 1947 and 1989 elections can be considered as partially free. All others were controlled. There were no presidential elections during the rest of this period, with President Bolesław Bierut's nomination by the Sejm and the abolition of the office by the 1952 constitution.
Since 1991, Polish elections operate according to a typical parliamentary system.
Poland elects on national level a head of state – the president – and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term by the people. The National Assembly has two chambers. The parliament (Sejm) has 460 members, elected for a four-year term by party lists in multi-seat constituencies with a 5% threshold for single parties and 8% threshold for coalitions, (requirement waived for national minorities). The Senate (Senat) has 100 members elected for a four-year term via the first past-the-post system, with 100 single member constituencies. Prior to the 2011 parliamentary elections, elections to the Senate were conducted through plurality bloc voting in 40 multi-seat constituencies. Since 1991 elections are supervised by National Electoral Commission (Państwowa Komisja Wyborcza), whose administrative division is called the National Electoral Office (Krajowe Biuro Wyborcze).
End of Communist rule
1989 parliamentary elections
1989 Parliamentary Elections: the Polish Round Table Agreement produced a partly open parliamentary elections. The June election produced a Sejm (lower house), in which one-third of the seats went to communists and one-third went to the two parties which had hitherto been their coalition partners. The remaining one-third of the seats in the Sejm and all those in the Senate were freely contested; the majority of these were by candidates supported by Solidarity. Jaruzelski was elected by the Sejm as President of Poland.
The May 1990 local elections were entirely free. Candidates supported by Solidarity's Citizens' Committees won most of the elections they contested, although voter turnout was only a little over 40%. The cabinet was reshuffled in July 1990; the national defence and interior affairs ministers (hold-overs from the previous communist government) were among those replaced.
1990 presidential elections
In October 1990, the constitution was amended to curtail the term of President Jaruzelski. In December, Lech Wałęsa became the first popularly elected President of Poland.
1991 parliamentary elections
Poland's first free parliamentary elections were held in 1991. More than 100 parties participated, representing the full spectrum of political views. No single party received more than 13% of the total vote.
1993 parliamentary elections
After the election, the SLD and Polish People's Party (PSL) formed a governing coalition. Waldemar Pawlak, leader of the junior partner PSL, became Prime Minister, later replaced by SLD's leader Józef Oleksy.
1995 presidential elections
1997 parliamentary elections
|Solidarity Electoral Action||Liberal conservatism||4,427,373||33.83%||201|
|Democratic Left Alliance||Social democracy||3,551,224||27.13%||164|
|Freedom Union||Classical liberalism||1,749,518||13.37%||60|
|Polish People's Party||Agrarianism||956,184||7.31%||27|
|Movement for Reconstruction of Poland||Euroscepticism||727,072||5.56%||6|
|Labour Union||Social democracy||620,611||4.74%||—||—|
|National Party of Retirees and Pensioners||284,826||2.18%||—||—|
|Unia Prawicy Rzeczypospolitej||266,317||2.03%||—||—|
|Blok dla Polski||178,395||1.36%||—||—|
|Total (Turnout: 47.93%)||12,974,346||100.0%||—||458||—|
In 1997 parliamentary elections two parties with roots in the Solidarity movement – Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) – won 261 of the 460 seats in the Sejm and formed a coalition government. Jerzy Buzek of the AWS became Prime Minister. The AWS and the Democratic Left Allianc (SLD) held the majority of the seats in the Sejm. Marian Krzaklewski was the leader of the AWS, and Leszek Miller led the SLD. In June 2000, UW withdrew from the governing collation, leaving AWS at the helm of a minority government.
2000 presidential election
|Candidates – party||votes||%|
|Aleksander Kwaśniewski – Independent supported by Democratic Left Alliance (SLD)||9,485,224||53.90|
|Andrzej Olechowski – Independent||3,044,141||17.30|
|Marian Krzaklewski – Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS)||2,739,621||15.57|
|Jarosław Kalinowski – Polish People's Party (PSL)||1,047,949||5.95|
|Andrzej Lepper – Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland (SRP)||537,570||3.05|
|Janusz Korwin-Mikke – Real Politics Union (UPR)||252,499||1.43|
|Lech Wałęsa – Christian Democracy of the 3rd Republic of Poland (ChD III RP)||178,590||1.01|
|Piotr Ikonowicz – Polish Socialist Party (PPS)||139,682||0.79|
|Jan Łopuszański – Polish Agreement (PP)||89,002||0.51|
|Dariusz Grabowski – Coalition for Poland (KdP)||38,672||0.22|
|Tadeusz Wilecki – Independent||28,805||0.16|
|Bogdan Pawłowski – Independent||17,164||0.10|
|Total valid votes||17,598,919|
|Total invalid votes||190,312|
|Total votes cast||17,789,231|
|Sources: Wybory Prezydenta Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej 2000: Wyniki Oficjalne|
In the presidential election of 2000, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, the incumbent former leader of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), was re-elected in the first round of voting, with 53.9% of the popular vote. Second place, with only 17.3%, went to Andrzej Olechowski. It is thought that the opposition campaign was hindered by their inability to put forward a charismatic (or even a single major) candidate, as well as falling support for the centre-right Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) government. This was related to internal friction in the ruling parliamentary coalition.
2001 parliamentary elections
The 1997 Constitution and the changed administrative divisions of 1999 required a revision of the electoral system, which was passed in April 2001. The most important changes included:
- the final liquidation of the party list (previously, some of the members of parliament were elected from a party list, based on nationwide voter support, rather than from local constituencies),
- modification of the method of allocating seats to the Sainte-Laguë method, which gave less premium to large parties. The latter change was reverted to the d'Hondt method in 2002.
In the September 2001 parliamentary elections, the SLD won on the back of voter disillusionment with the AWS government and internal bickering within that bloc. So much so that this former ruling party did not enter parliament, falling below the 8% threshold for coalitions (they had failed to form a formal political party, which has only a 5% threshold, and formally remained a "coalition" of parties).
2005 presidential and parliament elections
|Parties||Votes||%||Seats Sejm||+/-||Seats Senate|
|Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS)||3,185,714||27.0||155||+111||49|
|Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO)||2,849,259||24.1||133||+68||34|
|Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland (Samoobrona RP)||1,347,355||11.4||56||+3||3|
|Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD)||1,335,257||11.3||55||-161||-|
|League of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin, LPR)||940,726||8.0||34||-4||7|
|Polish People's Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL)||821,656||7.0||25||-17||2|
|Social Democracy of Poland (Socjaldemokracja Polska, SDPL)||459,380||3.9||-||-|
|Democratic Party (Partia Demokratyczna)||289,276||2.5||-||-|
|Janusz Korwin-Mikke Platform (Platforma Janusza Korwin-Mikke, PJKM)||185,885||1.6||-||-|
|Patriotic Movement (Ruch Patriotyczny)||124,038||1.1||-||-|
|Polish Labor Party (Polska Partia Pracy, PPP)||91,266||0.8||-||-|
|German Minority Electoral Committee (Komitet Wyborczy Mniejszość Niemiecka)||34,469||0.3||2|
|Polish National Party (Polska Partia Narodowa)||34,127||0.3||-|
|Native House (Dom Ojczysty)||32,863||0.3||-|
|All-Poland Civic Coalition (Ogólnopolska Koalicja Obywatelska)||16,251||0.1||-|
|Party Initiative of the Republic of Poland (Partia Inicjatywa Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej)||11,914||0.1||-|
|Polish Confederation – Dignity and Work (Polska Konfederacja – Godność i Praca)||8,353||0.1||-|
|National Rebirth of Poland (Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski)||7,376||0.1||-|
|German Minority of Silesia (Mniejszość Niemiecka Śląska)||5,581||0.1||-|
|Labour Party (Stronnictwo Pracy)||1,019||0.01||-|
|Social Rescuers (Społeczni Ratownicy)||982||0.01||-|
|Total (turnout 40.6 %)||11,804,676||460||100|
|Candidates and nominating parties||Votes 1st round||%||Votes 2nd round||%|
|Lech Kaczyński - Law and Justice||4,947,927||33.1||8,257,468||54.04|
|Donald Tusk - Civic Platform||5,429,666||36.3||7,022,319||45.96|
|Andrzej Lepper - Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland||2,259,094||15.1|
|Marek Borowski - Social Democracy of Poland||1,544,642||10.3|
|Jarosław Kalinowski - Polish People's Party||269,316||1.8|
|Janusz Korwin-Mikke - Real Politics Union||214,116||1.4|
|Henryka Bochniarz - Democratic Party||188,598||1.3|
|Stanisław Tymiński - All-Polish Citizens Coalition||23,545||0.2|
|Leszek Bubel - Polish National Party||18,828||0.1|
|Jan Pyszko - Organization of the Polish Nation - Polish League||10,371||0.1|
|Adam Słomka - The Polish Confederation-Freedom and the Work||8,895||0.1|
|Total valid votes||15,046,350||15,279,787|
|Total invalid votes||155,233||159,897|
|Total votes cast||15,435,020||15,439,684|
|Source: National Electoral Commission|
In the autumn of 2005 Poles voted in both parliamentary and presidential elections. September's parliamentary poll was expected to produce a coalition of two centre-right parties, Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) and Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO). PiS eventually gained 27% of votes cast and became the largest party in the sejm ahead of PO on 24%. The out-going ruling party, the left-wing Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD), achieved just 11%. Presidential elections in October followed a similar script. The early favourite, Donald Tusk, leader of the PO, saw his opinion poll lead slip away and was beaten 54% to 46% in the second round by the PiS candidate Lech Kaczyński (one of the twins, founders of the party). Both elections were blighted by low turn-outs—only 51% in the second and deciding round of the presidential election, and just over 40% in the parliamentary election. The suggested cause of the low turnout is popular disillusionment with politicians.
2006 local elections
2007 parliamentary election
|Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO)||6,701,010||41.51||17.37||
209 / 460
60 / 100
|Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS)||5,183,477||32.11||5.12||
166 / 460
39 / 100
|Left and Democrats (Lewica i Demokraci, LiD)||2,122,981||13.15||4.50||
53 / 460
|Polish People's Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL)||1,437,638||8.91||1.95||
31 / 460
|League of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin, LPR)||209,171||1.30||6.67||34||—||7|
|Polish Labour Party (Polish Labour Party, PPP)||160,476||0.99||0.22||—||—|
|Women's Party (Partia Kobiet, PK)||45,121||0.28||—||—|
|German Minority (Mniejszość Niemiecka, MN)||32,462||0.20||0.09||
1 / 460
|Patriotic Self-Defense (Samoobrona Patriotyczna)||2,531||0.02||—||—|
1 / 100
In the October parliamentary elections, the Civic Platform (PO) won a stunning victory, the largest opposition party, which gained more than 41% of the popular vote. PiS's vote increased, from 2005, but insufficiently to gain reelection, whilst both Samoobrona and LPR were wiped out, losing all representation, each having gained only a little over 1% of the vote. PO proceeded to form a majority governing coalition with the agrarian Polish People's Party (PSL), with PO leader, Donald Tusk, taking over the prime ministerial office in November, 2007.
2010 presidential election
|Candidates – Parties||First round||Second round|
|Bronisław Komorowski – Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska)||6,981,319||41.54||8,933,887||53.01|
|Jarosław Kaczyński – Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość)||6,128,255||36.46||7,919,134||46.99|
|Grzegorz Napieralski - Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej)||2,299,870||13.68|
|Janusz Korwin-Mikke – Freedom and Lawfulness (Wolność i Praworządność)||416,898||2.48|
|Waldemar Pawlak – Polish People's Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe)||294,273||1.75|
|Andrzej Olechowski – independent||242,439||1.44|
|Andrzej Lepper – Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland (Samoobrona Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej)||214,657||1.28|
|Marek Jurek – Right of the Republic (Prawica Rzeczypospolitej)||177,315||1.06|
|Bogusław Ziętek – Free Trade Union "August 80" (Wolny Związek Zawodowy "Sierpień 80")||29,548||0.18|
|Kornel Morawiecki – on behalf of Fighting Solidarity (Solidarność Walcząca)||21,596||0.13|
|Total votes for candidates||16,806,170||100.00||16,853,021||100.00|
|Total valid votes||16,806,170||99.30||16,853,021||98.84|
|Total invalid votes||117,662||0.70||197,396||1.16|
|Total votes cast||16,923,832||100.00||17,050,417||100.00|
|Source: Electoral Commission, National Electoral Commission|
At the presidential election in 2010, Donald Tusk decided not to present his candidature, considered easily winning over PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński. At PO primary elections, Bronisław Komorowski defeated the Oxford-educated, PiS turncoat Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. At the polls, Komorowski defeated Jarosław Kaczyński, ensuring a PO dominance on all Polish political landscape.
In November 2010, local elections granted about 31 percent of the votes and PiS at 23 percent, an increase for the former and a drop for the latter compared to the 2006 elections. PO succeeded in winning four consecutive elections a record in post-communist Poland.
2011 parliamentary election
|Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO)||5,629,773||39.18||2.33||
207 / 460
63 / 100
|Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS)||4,295,016||29.89||2.22||
157 / 460
31 / 100
|Palikot's Movement (Ruch Palikota, RP)||1,439,490||10.02||
40 / 460
|Polish People's Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL)||1,201,628||8.36||0.55||
28 / 460
2 / 100
|Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD)||1,184,303||8.24||4.91||
27 / 460
|Poland Comes First (Polska Jest Najważniejsza, PJN)||315,393||2.19||—||—|
|Polish Labour Party (Polish Labour Party (Sierpień 80), PPP-S'80)||79,147||0.55||0.44||—||—|
|Congress of the New Right (Kongres Nowej Prawicy, KNP)||151,837||1.06||—||—|
|Right Wing (Prawica)||35,169||0.24||—||—|
|German Minority (Mniejszość Niemiecka, MN)||28,014||0.19||0.01||
1 / 460
|Our Home Poland (Nasz Dom Polska)||9,733||0.07||1.46||—||—|
|Citizens to the Senate (OdS)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||
1 / 100
3 / 100
The parliamentary election to both the Sejm and the Senate was held on 9 October 2011. The previous election, in 2007, resulted in a Civic Platform–Polish People's Party (PSL) government. All seats of both houses were up for re-election.
Civic Platform (PO), led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, was aiming for re-election: a feat that hadn't been achieved since Poland became a democracy. The PSL was previously the smaller partner to the Civic Platform in the governing coalition, and had said that it wished to continue this relationship after the election.
2015 parliamentary election
The parliamentary election to both the Sejm and the Senate is expected to be held in October 2015. The previous election, in 2011, resulted in a Civic Platform–Polish People's Party (PSL) government. All seats of both houses are up for re-election.
The process of election for the Sejm is through party-list proportional representation via the D'hondt method in multi-seat constituencies, with a 5% threshold for single parties and 8% threshold for coalitions (requirements waived for national minorities). The following coalition has been signed already: Law and Justice (PiS) between United Poland (SP) and Polska Razem (PR).
The following coalition has been communicated orally: The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) between Twój Ruch (TR). In the run up to the next Polish parliamentary election, various organisations carry out opinion polling to gauge voting intention. One of the first poll results which is taken into account the coalitions is listed in the table below.
|Polling organisation/client||Civic Platform PO||Law and Justice PiS||Democratic Left Alliance SLD||Polish People's Party PSL||Congress of the New Right KNP|
- Kancelaria. "Poznaj Sejm" [Learn about Polish Parliament]. Sejm Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- "Wybory Prezydenta Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej 2000: Wyniki Oficjalne" (in Polish). Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- "Elections 2007" (html) (in Polish). pkw.gov.pl. October 21, 2007. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Warsaw Business Journal
- "PSL want to continue coalition in next year's general election". TheNews.pl. Polskie Radio. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
- TT.com, Polen: Wahlbündnis verschafft der Rechten Wählerzuspruch. Webseite (German language)
- Andrzej Rzepliński. "Niewolne wybory parlamentarne. Doświadczenie polskie 1947–1989" [Unfree parliamentary elections. The Polish Experience 1947–1989] (PDF). Instytut Profilaktyki Społecznej i Resocjalizacji, IPSiR. Warsaw University.
- Groth, A. J. (December 1965). "Polish Elections 1919–1928". Slavic Review. The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. 24 (4): 653–665. doi:10.2307/2492896. JSTOR 2492896.
- Adam Carr's Election Archive
- Parties and elections
- Państwowa Komisja Wyborcza – National Electoral Commission (Polish)
- Warsaw Consolidates the Countries of Eastern and Central Europe
- Jan Rokita: The Triumph of the Politician – Intellectual
- Kaczynski Brothers: Movie Stars That Turned Politicians
- Elections 2005: Brief Information About the Participants
- The Elections to the Polish Parliament (Sejm) 1919 – 1947 (results)