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Poland Politics

State and politics

Poland's current constitution was approved in a referendum in 1997 and makes the country a parliamentary democracy.

Political System of Poland

GOVERNMENT

The Legislative Assembly consists of a lower house (sejm) and an upper house (senate).

The Sejm has 460 and the Senate 100 members, and both chambers are elected every four years in general elections. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how PL can stand for Poland.

Parties must get 5 percent and party alliances 8 percent to enter the Sejm, but exceptions apply to parties representing minority groups. The senators are elected according to the majority principle in separate constituencies.

It is the Sejm that adopts laws, and the Senate can recommend rejections, changes or additions.

The president has the right to veto bills, but Parliament can veto it. The president is elected by the people and can sit for a maximum of two five-year terms. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who must, however, be approved by the Sejm. Thus, it is the majority of the seism who gets the last word.

The government has the executive power and is responsible for the legislative seal. A government that does not have a majority in the Sejm can be felled only if there is a majority for another government.

Although the powers of the presidential office are limited, the president has great authority as head of state, and overall responsibility for foreign and defense policy as well as a certain appointment. The president can also take the initiative for referendums.

Political parties

After several changes during the period following the fall of communism, political life today is dominated by two parties: the liberal and European- friendly Platforma Obywatelska ('Citizens' Platform ', PO) led by Ewa Kopacz and the more conservative and nationalist Prawo in Sprawiedliwość (' Law and Justice ', PiS) under the direction of Jarosław Kaczyński.

The Social Democratic Party Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej ('Democratic Left Alliance', SLD), which ruled from 1993-97 and 2001-05, has gradually lost influence and ended up out of parliament in 2015. In the 2019 election, SLD gained popularity and captured 49 seats.

Prior to the 2015 parliamentary elections, it formed an alliance with a number of left and environmental parties under the name Zjednoczona Lewica ('United Left', ZL). Other new parties for the 2015 parliamentary elections were the Liberal Nowoczes ('Modern', N), formed in 2015 by economist Ryszard Petru (born 1972), and right-wing populist Kukiz'15 (K'15), who himself does not refer to himself as a political party but a movement with one of its main goals of abolishing party politics. K'15 is led by Paweł Kukiz (born 1963).

There is also a peasant movement, Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe ('Polish People's Party', PSL). In the 2019 elections, PSL and K'15 formed an alliance that received 30 seats.

Other parties, including several breakouts from PiS, receive only a few percent in the opinion polls. After the 2015 elections, a minority party sat in the sejm: Mniejszość Niemiecka (MN), representing the German minority in Poland. In the 2019 elections, the party received a mandate in the Sejm.

The populist coalition parties of the Kaczyński government in 2005–07, the ultra-conservative Liga Polskich Rodzin ("Polish Confederation of Families", LPR) and the populist Samoo Bridge ("Self-Defense") have disappeared from Parliament and dissolved. Instead, another party, the Confederation, which is a compilation of ultranationalists and market liberals, got its seat in the 2019 Sejm.

In the 1990s, the party was Unia Demokratyczna ("Democratic Union", the Foreign Ministry), later Unia Wolności ("Freedom Union", UW), mainly responsible for the reforms that followed the fall of the Communist dictatorship in 1989. Nowadays, several activists from this party, including the first Democratic Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, acting as ministers and advisers in the president's office. Others are in the PO.

Policy

Since Donald Tusk was appointed President of the European Council in 2014, the Prime Minister's post was taken over by Ewa Kopacz. Following the 2015 election victory for PiS, Beata Szydło assumed the post of Prime Minister. She resigned in 2017 and was replaced by Mateusz Morawiecki (born 1968).

The Conservative and Nationalist Party Law and Justice had strong public support for the 2019 parliamentary elections. The party also secured government power for another term of office. The reversal of the party's strategy that brought PiS to power in 2015, to appear less radical and with a social commitment, once again proved viable. In contrast, the party lost its majority in the upper house, the Senate, where the opposition now has 51 seats compared to the government's 49. The result weakens PiS's influence over the legislative process.

PiS's popularity is rooted in a generally conservative opinion in Poland on issues of gender roles, abortion and sexual minority rights, which are strongly linked to the significance and influence of the Catholic Church. Under PiS's leadership, the country's economy has flourished and unemployment has fallen. PiS has pushed through lower retirement age, increased minimum wage and strengthened support for families with more than two children. PiS's success can also be explained by the party's quest to deal with the country's corruption and its nationalist aspirations, which are disguised by the party as an ambition to strengthen Poland's national pride in the country and its history.

During the previous term of the party, the party had received sharp criticism from the EU as a result of legislative changes that were considered to weaken democracy by, among other things, restricting legal security and restricting the country's free media. Not having free media is problematic because a functioning democracy requires well-informed citizens.

There is no Polish endeavor to leave the EU, however, a criticism of what PiS considers to be the Union's supremacy, which runs counter to its own political ambitions.

Judiciary

Following the fall of the Communist regime, the legal system in Poland has undergone a radical adjustment to the needs of the market economy. The right is mainly codified, including in a civil law. The judicial organization consists of district courts, appellate courts and, at central level, a constitutional court, a supreme court and a supreme administrative court. The death penalty was abolished in 1997. The last execution took place in 1988.

Human Rights

During the 2000s, the number of xenophobic and racist incidents, as well as discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities, increased. Despite the fact that crimes committed against ethnic groups, hate crimes involving violence and anti-Semitism are increasingly prevalent, few suspected perpetrators are arrested. According to local non-governmental organizations, prosecutors have in some cases refused to pursue cases relating to anti-Semitism and hate crimes, which goes against Polish law.

In Poland, there is violence against women and discrimination against women in the labor market. Trafficking in human beings includes men and women and is constantly increasing, both in the case of forced labor in and outside the country. Trafficking in women and children for the purpose of selling them for sexual purposes is extensive in Poland as well as in several other parts of Europe such as the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.

Women's reproductive rights are in contrast to Poland's abortion legislation. The 1993 legislation only allows abortion in three circumstances: in danger of a woman's life or health, after sexual offenses or in serious birth defects. Healthcare professionals can refuse to perform abortions by invoking the conscience refusal. This has meant that abortions have been prevented even though the woman complied with the statutory requirements.

In 2015, the debate on the country's freedom of expression and information was intensified as a result of the controversial media laws voted by the Polish parliament, with the ruling Party Law and Justice (PiS). The law gave the government the right to appoint and dismiss managers on state TV and radio channels, which is contrary to the civil rights whose purpose is to keep the media autonomous and without political influence, thereby enabling the individual's right to free information.

There is discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ people.

Heads of State

Dukes * and kings of the Piast dynasty
about 960–992 Mieszko I (Duke)
992-1025 Boleslav I (Duke)
1025 Boleslav I (king)
1025-34 Mieszko II Lambert (kung)
ca 1031 Bezprym (Duke)
1034-58 Kasimir I (Duke)
1058-76 Boleslav II (Duke)
1076-79 Boleslav II (king)
1079-1102 Vladislav I Herman (Duke)
1102-07 Zbigniew (Duke)
1102-38 Boleslav III (Duke)
Seniors ** of the Piast Dynasty
1138-46 Vladislav II
1146-73 Boleslav IV
1173-77 Mieszko III
1177 – ca 1191 Kasimir II
ca 1191 Mieszko III
about 1191–94 Kasimir II
1194 Leszek I
1194-95 Mieszko III
1195-98 Leszek I
1198-99 Mieszko III
1199 Leszek I
1199-1201 Mieszko III
1201 Leszek I
1201-02 Mieszko III
1202 Vladislav III
1202-10 Leszek I
1210-11 Mieszko Platonogi
1211-27 Leszek I
Dukes of Kraków *** (Piast Dynasty, except Wacłav I)
1228 Vladislav III
1229-32 Konrad I
1232-38 Henrik I
1238-41 Henry II
1241-43 Konrad I
1243-79 Boleslav V
1279-88 Leszek II
1288/89-90 Henrik Probus
1290-91 Przemysł II
1291-1300 Wacław I (King Václav II of Bohemia)
1306-20 Vladislav (I)
Kings (of the Piast Dynasty, except Wacław I and II)
1295-96 Przemysł II (in Greater Poland)
1300-05 Wacław I
1305-06 Wacław II (Václav III of Bohemia)
1320-33 Vladislav I
1333-70 Kasimir III
Angevinska dynasty
1370-82 Ludwik Wielki (Louis I of Hungary)
1384-86 Hedvig (Jadwiga)
Jagellonian dynasty
1386-1434 Vladislav II
1434-44 Vladislav III
1447-92 Kasimir IV
1492-1501 Johan I Albrekt
1501-06 Alexander
1506-48 Sigismund I
1548-72 Sigismund II August
Valkungar
1573-74 Henrik III
1576-86 Stefan Batory
1587-1632 Sigismund III (Vaasa)
1632-48 Vladislav IV
1648-68 Johan II Kasimir
1669-73 Mikael Korybut Wiśniowiecki
1674-96 Johan III Sobieski
1697-1704 August II (The Strong)
1704-09 Stanisław I Leszczyński
1709-33 August II (The Strong)
1733-36 Stanisław I Leszczyński
1733-63 August III
1764-95 Stanisław II Poniatowski
REGENT
1918-22 Józef Piłsudski
Presidents
1922 Gabriel Narutowicz
1922-26 Stanisław Wojciechowski
1926-39 Ignacy Mościcki
1939-47 Władysław Raczkiewicz (in exile)
Chairman of the Government
1945-52 Bolesław Bierut
1952-64 Aleksander Zawadzki
1964-68 Edward Ochab
1968-70 Marian Spychalski
1970-72 Józef Cyrankiewicz
1972-85 Henryk Jabloński
1985-89 Wojciech Jaruzelski
Presidents
1989-90 Wojciech Jaruzelski
1990-95 Lech Wałęsa
1995-2005 Aleksander Kwaśniewski
2005-10 Lech Kaczyński
2010-15 Bronisław Komorowski
2015- Andrzej Duda

* The Polish title "książę" can be translated with both "duke" and "prince". In NE, "Duke" is used.

** In 1138, Poland was divided into duchies under members of the royal house. The oldest member of his generation, the senior, held Kraków and had supremacy over the other dukes.

*** The principle of seniority was eroded in 1180–1227, and Kraków became a hereditary duchy. Its dukes, however, continued to exercise some supremacy.

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