Constitution of the Polish People's Republic
The Constitution of the Polish People's Republic (also known as July Constitution or Constitution of 1952) was passed on 22 July 1952. Created by the Polish communists in the Polish People's Republic, it was based on the 1936 Soviet Constitution (also known as Stalin Constitution), and it superseded the post-war provisional Small Constitution of 1947 which, at its turn, had declared null and void the pre-war April Constitution, defined as fascist. The Russian text of the Constitution was reviewed and corrected by Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and later translated into Polish. It legalized the communist legislature and practices as they had been introduced to Poland with the Polish Committee of National Liberation in the wake of Red Army progress in 1944. With the revolutions of 1989 it was significantly amended between 1989 and 1992 (from 29 December 1989 it was known simply as the Constitution of the Republic of Poland) and was superseded by the new Polish constitution on 2 April 1997.
The constitution was amended 24 times, with the most known amendment being that of 10 February 1976. This amendment declared that Poland was a socialist country, the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) was the leading force in the building of socialism and Poland was an eternal friend of the Soviet Union. This amendment caused the protest resulting in the Letter of 59.
The constitution broke the tradition of separation of powers, and instead introduced the Soviet practice of dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus the legislative branch of the government - (Polish parliament, the Sejm) was to have the highest power as per the 'will of the people', and it would oversee the judiciary and executive branch of the government.
The Sejm of the Polish People's Republic started with 425 members, and at first the number was declared to represent 1 deputy per 60,000 citizens. However, as the population grew in 1960, that connection was dropped from the constitution stabilizing the Sejm at 460 deputies. An article in the constitution stated that deputies were responsible to the people and could be recalled by the people, although this article was never used. Instead of the Five-point electoral law, a four-point version was used (not proportional).
The Sejm would also choose a 'Prezydium' body from its members, with the marshal of the Sejm always being a member of the United People's Party. During its first session the Sejm would also nominate the Prime Minister together with other ministers (Council of Ministers) and members of the State Council. The Sejm would also choose many other government officials, including the head of the Supreme Chamber of Control (Najwyższa Izba Kotroli, NIK), members of the State Tribunal (Trybunał Stanu) and Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunał Konstytucjny) as well as the Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) (the latter three institutions were created in the 1980s).
Executive power was held by the Council of Ministers and State Council. The State Council was elected on the first session of the sejm for a four-year period, and could be composed of both deputies and non-deputies; they were usually chosen from the 'party key' (with party being the Polish United Workers' Party) although occasionally it contained non-party members. The council acted as the Head of State (in practice usually through the President of the State Council) and thus represented the Polish People's Republic in foreign relations and the ratification of international treaties; the Council also had the vote in matters related to the military. It granted citizenship and could invoke pardon. The council had no legislative initiative, but could issue decrees. However, they had to be confirmed by the Sejm in its next session. The council also defined the judicial interpretation.
The Supreme Court was the overseer of all other courts, which were divided into regional, voivodeship and particular (administrative and military). In 1980, the Supreme Administrative Court was introduced, and in 1982, the State Tribunal (which also existed in the Second Polish Republic), Constitutional Tribunal and the Ombudsman were introduced.
During its 45 years of service, the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was subject to many changes, with its text amended 24 times.
The most known amendment was that of 10 February 1976. This amendment declared that Poland was a socialist country, the PZPR was the leading force in the building of socialism and Poland was an eternal friend of the Soviet Union. This amendment caused the protest resulting in the Letter of 59.
The constitution was heavily amended in the years after the Revolutions of 1989. The amendments purged the document of its Communist character. Among the more important changes:
- In April 1989, the April Novelization (nowela kwietniowa) was passed, restoring the Senate of Poland and the office of President of Poland. The first president of Poland since 1952 would be Wojciech Jaruzelski, elected in 1989.
- In December 1989, the Contract Sejm changed the name of the country (from the Polish People's Republic into the Republic of Poland) and removed references to Poland being a socialist state.
- On 17 October 1992, much of the constitution was replaced by the Small Constitution of 1992.
As in most other communist countries, the constitution was based on the 1936 Soviet Constitution (also known as Stalin Constitution) and thus served mostly as a propaganda tool, failing to regulate the main source of power - the communist party (Polish United Workers' Party in the case of Poland). See also the statute of the Polish United Workers' Party.
- This article incorporates information from the revision as of 23 June 2006 of the equivalent article on the Polish Wikipedia.
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