Polish people's referendum, 1946

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The People's Referendum (Polish: referendum ludowe) of 1946, also known as the Three Times Yes referendum (Trzy razy tak, often abbreviated as 3×TAK), was a referendum held in Poland on 30 June 1946 on the authority of the State National Council (order of 27 April 1946). The referendum presented an opportunity for the forces vying for political control of Poland following World War II to test their popularity among the general population. However, the results were forged and the referendum failed to meet democratic standards.[1]


The referendum comprised three questions:

  1. Are you in favor of abolishing the Senate?
  2. Do you want consolidation, in the future constitution of the economic system founded on agricultural reform and the nationalisation of basic national industries, including the preservation of the statutory rights of private enterprise?
  3. Do you want consolidation of the western border of the Polish State on the Baltic, Oder river and Lusatian Neisse? [2]


Agitation poster in Warsaw

Parties of the pro-communist Democratic Bloc, (the Polish Workers' Party (PPR), Socialist Party, Democratic Party, and People's Party) campaigned heavily in favor of "Three Times Yes", while non-communist parties advocated various other combinations; hence the referendum was seen as unofficially deciding whether the Polish citizenry supported or opposed communism.[2][3] The Polish People's Party (PSL) and Labor Party, which realized what was really at stake in the vote, namely Polish independence and the future of the country, advocated voting "no" on the first question,[2] despite the fact that it had been opposed to the Senate's existence since before the war. The majority of PSL political support was in rural areas, among people who supported agricultural reform, so the party found it impossible to advocate voting "no" on the second question. Nonetheless, the party's opposition to the first question was used by the communists to declare the more liberal PSL activists "traitors". Catholic groups supported "no" on the first question, "yes" on the third, and left the second to voters individual preferences.[2] The Wolność i Niezawisłość party argued against the first two questions only, while the National Armed Forces advocated a "no" for all three questions, as a sign of protest against the annexation of the eastern territories of Poland (known as the Kresy) by the Soviet Union.[2]


Referendum results (green: yes, red: no)

The official results, published on 12 July 1946, showed that from a population of 13,160,451 eligible voters, 90.1% or 11,857,986 had taken part in the referendum. Of these, 11,530,551 or 97.2% were counted as valid. On the first question, 68% of voters chose "yes". On the second question, 77.2% voted "yes". On the third question, 91.4% voted "yes".[2]

However, the official results were far removed from the actual results since the vote had been seriously compromised by the communists and their supporters. The communists, who already de facto controlled much of the government and had the backing of the military (both the Polish Wojsko Ludowe and Soviet Red Army), used the police (Milicja Obywatelska) and the secret services (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa) to threaten, assault and even murder opposition activists, switch real ballots for false ones, stuff ballot boxes with false votes, consider blank ballots as “yes” votes, destroy votes not in favour of all or any of the three questions or simply falsify votes.[2][3] Voting in the army was done on command and without secrecy.[4][5] The falsification was overseen, just like the later Polish legislative election, 1947, by Soviet experts like Aron Palkin and Semyon Davydov, both high-ranking officers from the Soviet Ministry for State Security.[3]

In Kraków, where the opposition managed to ensure a fair vote, the "no" results were: 84%, 59% and 30% for all three questions.[2] PSL, which was able to obtain real records for approximately 48% of the voting districts, estimated that a "yes" for all three questions was chosen by 16.7% of respondents.[2] Despite the protests of the opposition, led by Stanisław Mikołajczyk, and representatives of the United Kingdom and United States, the results were declared free and fair by the government.

Question I

Choice Votes %
Invalid/blank votes327,435
Registered voters/turnout13,160,45190.1
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question II

Choice Votes %
Invalid/blank votes327,435
Registered voters/turnout13,160,45190.1
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question III

Choice Votes %
Invalid/blank votes327,435
Registered voters/turnout13,160,45190.1
Source: Nohlen & Stöver


Following the referendum, the Allies called for democratic elections. However, the 1947 elections were "completely manipulated".[1]

Materials published after the communists lost power in Poland in 1989 showed that only the third question received a majority of votes in favor. For the first question, "yes" was chosen by 26.9% voters. For the second question, 42% chose "yes". For the third question, 66.9% chose "yes".[6] Secret documents from the PPR show that they believed 27% of respondents had voted yes for all three questions. The official results indicated this figure was 68%.


  1. 1 2 Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1475 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Polish) Referendum ludowe, WIEM Encyklopedia, retrieved on 4 December 2009
  3. 1 2 3 (Polish), Maciej Korkuć, Wybory 1947 – mit założycielski komunizmu: Sfałszowane wybory – 19 stycznia 1947 roku. IPN Kraków, also available in „Biuletynie Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej” nr 1-2/2007
  4. "You Cannot Shoot Us All", Time Magazine, June 17, 1946
  5. "It is Forbidden", Time Magazine, July 08, 1946
  6. Czesław Osękowski Referendum 30 czerwca 1946 roku w Polsce, Wydawnictwo Sejmowe, 2000, ISBN 83-7059-459-X

Further reading

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