Polish parliamentary election, 2005
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Parliamentary elections were held in Poland on 25 September 2005. Thirty million voters were eligible to vote for all 460 members of the lower house, the Sejm and all 100 members of the upper house, the Senate.
The election resulted in a sweeping victory for two parties of the centre-right, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) and the liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO). The incumbent center-left government of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) was soundly defeated in a landslide. The two victorious parties won 288 out of the 460 seats, while the SLD was reduced to 55 seats. The PiS won 155 seats, while PO obtained 133. PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, declined the opportunity to become Prime Minister in order not to prejudice his twin brother Lech Kaczyński's chances for the presidential election held later in October. In his place, Law and Justice instead nominated Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz for the post. The outgoing Prime Minister, Marek Belka, lost his seat.
In the Senate, PiS won 49 seats and PO 34 of the 100 seats, leaving eight other parties with the remaining 17 seats. The SLD won no seats in the Senate.
The 2005 Sejm was elected by proportional representation from multi-member constituencies, with seats divided among parties which gain more than five percent of the votes using the d'Hondt method. On the other hand, the Senate is elected under first-past-the-post bloc voting. This tends to cause the party or coalition which wins the elections to have a larger majority in the Senate than in the Sejm.
In the 2001 elections the SLD and UP won 216 of the 460 seats, and were able to form a government with the support of the Polish People's Party (PSL). The former ruling party, Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) based on the Solidarity trade union, lost all its seats. In its place several new right-wing parties emerged, such as the PO and the PiS.
After 2003 a variety of factors combined to bring about a collapse of support for the government. Discontent with high unemployment, government spending cuts (especially on health, education and welfare), affairs related to privatizations was compounded by a series of corruption scandals, leading to the resignation of the Prime Minister Leszek Miller in May 2004, who was succeeded by Marek Belka. All opinion polls suggested that the governing parties would be heavily defeated at these elections and that the right-wing parties would win a large majority. With the expected downfall of the post-communists, the right-wing parties competed mainly against each other.
The parties running in this election were mainly the same as in 2001, with the addition of Social Democracy of Poland (a splinter group from the Democratic Left Alliance), and the Democratic Party formed from the Freedom Union (UW) and some SLD dissidents. Both these new parties failed to win seats.
The BBC commented on election day: "The two centre-right parties are both rooted in the anti-communist Solidarity movement but differ on issues such as the budget and taxation. Law and Justice, whose agenda includes tax breaks and state aid for the poor, has pledged to uphold traditional family and Christian values. It is suspicious of economic liberalism. The Citizens Platform strongly promotes free market forces and wants to introduce a flat 15% rate for income tax, corporation tax and VAT. It also promises to move faster on deregulation and privatisation, in order to adopt the euro as soon as possible."
In the run up to the election, various organisations carried out opinion polling to gauge voting intention. The poll results are listed in the table below.
- Until February 2001, CBOS polls did not disregard those polled who said they were still undecided. To ensure consistency, the result of the polls prior to February 2001 has been adjusted to exclude the undecided.
|Law and Justice||3,185,714||27.0||155||+111||5,014,149||42.4||49||–|
|Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland||1,347,355||11.4||56||+3||2,016,858||17.1||3||+1|
|Democratic Left Alliance||1,335,257||11.3||55||–161||3,114,118||26.4||0||–75|
|League of Polish Families||940,762||8.0||34||–4||2,947,719||25.0||7||+5|
|Polish People's Party||821,656||7.0||25||–17||1,384,313||11.7||2||–2|
|Social Democracy of Poland||459,380||3.9||0||New||573,556||4.9||0||New|
|Janusz Korwin-Mikke Platform||185,885||1.6||0||New||–||–||–||–|
|Polish Labour Party||91,266||0.8||0||New||–||–||–||–|
|Polish National Party||34,127||0.3||0||New||–||–||–||–|
|All-Poland Civic Coalition||16,251||0.1||0||New||–||–||–||–|
|Party Initiative of the Republic of Poland||11,914||0.1||0||New||–||–||–||–|
|Polish Confederation - Dignity and Work||8,353||0.1||0||New||–||–||–||–|
|National Revival of Poland||7,376||0.1||0||New||–||–||–||–|
|German Minority of Silesia||5,581||0.1||0||0||–||–||–||–|
|Local lists and independents||–||–||–||–||4,321,323||36.6||5||+3|
|Source: Nohlen & Stöver|
Had the two leading parties been able to form a coalition, as expected, it would have had 62.6 percent of seats in the Assembly, just short of the two-thirds supermajority required to carry out more ambitious projects, such as constitutional reform, but this was not to be (see below). The populist and isolationist Self-Defense of the Polish Republic (Samoobrona) slightly improved its representation and became the third largest party ahead of the SLD, which despite losing most of its seats performed slightly better than suggested in opinion polls. It has, however, lost all its Senate seats. The League of Polish Families and the Polish People's Party retained their representation. The German minority in Poland is exempt from the requirement of achieving at least 5% of the total vote and retained their 2 seats.
Distribution of the vote
Although PiS and PO were the clear winners, their vote was very unevenly distributed, creating a basis for future conflicts. Their support is overwhelmingly concentrated in the cities, particularly Warsaw and the southern industrial areas around Kraków and Katowice, but also including Gdańsk, Gdynia, Poznań, Wrocław and Szczecin. The only urban centre not to endorse the right was Łódź. The two main parties failed to win a majority in any rural district except Rzeszów in the south. In seven rural districts they polled less the 40 percent of the vote, while in one (Chełm) they polled less than 35 percent. While no other single party polled a majority in any district, the vote shows the continuing sharp divide in Polish politics between urban voters, who are generally more socially liberal and in favour of free-market economics, and rural voters, who are more socially conservative and economically left-wing.
Negotiations between PiS and PO about forming the new government collapsed in late October, precipitated by disagreement regarding who would be speaker of the Sejm. On 1 November the PiS announced a minority government headed by Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz as the new Prime Minister. The negotiations were affected by the 9 October presidential election, where the PiS victor Lech Kaczyński is the twin brother of the PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński; Jarosław Kaczyński had declared that he would not become the Prime Minister if his brother wins the election. The constitutional requirement to form a government within a set time period also heated up the coalition negotiations.
A major stumbling block against forming a coalition was the PO's insistence on receiving the Interior portfolio if it were to enter a coalition government with the PiS, to prevent one party from controlling all three of the "power" ministries (Security, Justice and Interior) that control the police and security services. The PO also opposed a "tactical alliance" between the PiS and Samoobrona, who share eurosceptic and populists sentiments, although differing on economic policy. The election campaign, in which both centre-right parties competed mainly against each other rather than parties on the left, accentuated differences and created an antagonistic relationship between the two parties.
The minority government depended on the support of the radical Samoobrona and the deeply conservative League of Polish Families (LPR) to govern, a situation that made many of those hoping for a PiS/PO coalition uneasy. On 5 May 2006 PiS formed a coalition government with Samoobrona and LPR.
In July 2006, Marcinkiewicz tendered his resignation, following reports of a rift with PiS party leader Kaczyński. Kaczyński formed a new government and was sworn-in on July 14, finally becoming prime minister.
- Markowski, Radosław (September 2006). "The Polish elections of 2005: Pure chaos or a restructuring of the party system?". West European Politics 29 (4): 814–832. doi:10.1080/01402380600842452.
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- Return of the right The Economist, 28 September 2005
- Minority government for Poles after coalition talks collapse Financial Times, 1 November 2005