State and politics
Poland's current constitution was approved in a
referendum in 1997 and makes the country a parliamentary
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
||Mieszko I (Duke)
||Boleslav I (Duke)
||Boleslav I (king)
||Mieszko II Lambert (kung)
||Kasimir I (Duke)
||Boleslav II (Duke)
||Boleslav II (king)
||Vladislav I Herman (Duke)
||Boleslav III (Duke)
|Seniors ** of the Piast Dynasty
|1177 – ca 1191
|Dukes of Kraków *** (Piast Dynasty,
except Wacłav I)
||Wacław I (King Václav II of Bohemia)
|Kings (of the Piast Dynasty, except
Wacław I and II)
||Przemysł II (in Greater Poland)
||Wacław II (Václav III of Bohemia)
||Ludwik Wielki (Louis I of Hungary)
||Johan I Albrekt
||Sigismund II August
||Sigismund III (Vaasa)
||Johan II Kasimir
||Mikael Korybut Wiśniowiecki
||Johan III Sobieski
||August II (The Strong)
||Stanisław I Leszczyński
||August II (The Strong)
||Stanisław I Leszczyński
||Stanisław II Poniatowski
||Władysław Raczkiewicz (in exile)
|Chairman of the Government
* 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.