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Poland - 2011 Elections

During the 2011 Sejm elections, Donald Tusk’s PO managed, as the only party in Poland after 1989, to win the elections as a ruling party and to remain in power.

The election for the Sejm was held on 9 October 2011. There were 30,762,931 registered voters for the election. The Civic Platform Party won 207 seats (of 460) or 39.18% of the vote, the Law and Justice Party won 157 seats (29.89% of the vote), Palikot’s Movement won 40 seats (10.02% of the vote), the Polish Peasant Party won 28 seats (8.36% of the vote), the Democratic Left Alliance won 27 seats (8.24% of the vote), and the German Minority of Lower Silesia won 1 seat (0.19% of the vote). Robert Biedron, the co-founder of the Campaign against Homophobia, was among those to have won a seat in Sunday's general election and is the country's first openly gay MP.

Calculations showed that the newly formed Palikot Movement, which scored a surprising third place, spent 0.7 zloty per vote secured in the parliamentary elections, while the two major contenders – Civic Platform and Law and Justice – spent 5 zloty per vote gained. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Palikot’s direct political opponent, had even “invested” 16.7 zloty for every vote won in the parliamentary race.

The new party - „Palikot`s Movement” (Ruch Palikota) focused on criticism of Catholic Church, Catholic values and tried to appeal to voters interested in modernity in many levels of socio-political life. The party’s agenda was about women’s rights, ecology, and other very typical leftist issues in Europe. In Poland its anti-clerical stance was a serious drawback to participation in a governing coalition. Palikot had already been on the radical right and at the political center, and now he reinvented himself as a politician to the left of the political spectrum. Palikot managed to enter the Sejm by unexpectedly winning 10 percent of the vote, but his support quickly faded.

Civic Platform is a center-right party in the mould of many christian-democrat parties in Europe and has been the senior coalition partner in government since the 2007 elections. The party is for a small state, in both the economic and social spheres, but styles itself as pro-EU and 'pro-business'.

Their party manifesto promised “smart economic growth”: “We must move from the stage of raising efficiency and capital accumulation to building wealth based on innovation and creating competitive advantages such as knowledge and creativity,” says the party manifesto. The party fashions itself as being for consensual politics and against the more abrasive approach of its main rival, Law and Justice, to be the largest party in the lower house (Sejm) and upper house (Senat) after the elections.

Like Civic Platform, Law and Justice members mainly stem from the 1980s Solidarity movement. Regularly described as being to the 'right' of Civic Platform they are, in fact, more statist in their policies. The party's election program declares that: “For four years the Polish people have been ruled by a simplified version of liberalism which does not appreciate the importance of the State as a common good.”

Law and Justice charged that the Civic Platform-led coalition was marked by policies resulting in a “predatory privatisation” and a “rise in unemployment to 13 percent of the workforce”. Law and Justice promised a policy in which “the fruits of economic development also benefit less affluent citizens and the economically weaker regions; and a country where the family and the education of children meet with due recognition and support from the state.” Law and Justice is generally seen as more EU-sceptic than Civic Platform, and more socially conservative.

A diverse media landscape in Poland allows for a broad range of public and political views. Apart from the public Polskie Radio and Telewizja Polska (TVP) that includes a news channel and 16 regional outlets, such private broadcasters as TVN (including a news channel TVN24) and Polsat also have a large audience. The power of the National Broadcasting Council (NBC) to appoint the management of public broadcasters has previously resulted in some political bias of public TV and radio stations.

The Civic Platform/Polish Peasant's Party coalition remained in power till the end of 2011 with the same composition of ministers. While PO has had a successful coalition government over the prevoius four years with PSL, it was not clear before the elections how well PSL would do in the voting booth.

There was speculation that PO’s coalition partner would change. The Polish Peasant Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL), which was responsible for such ministries like the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Agriculture, might be replaced by the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD). This change would not, however, affect the priorities of the Polish presidency, which were adopted by the Council of Ministers on May 31st, 2011.

President Bronislaw Komorowski recognised the establishment of a majority coalition as a good opportunity for creating a new government. In the prime minister’s opinion, PO and PSL were able to make up such a coalition. According to the prime minister, most probably five or six ministers from the Civic Platform (PO) will continue to work in the government.



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