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Political system in Poland
Recent developments

In the autumn of 2005 Poles voted in both parliamentary and presidential elections. September's parliamentary poll was expected to produce a coalition of two centre-right parties, PiS (Law and Justice) and PO (Citizens Platform). During the increasingly bitter campaign, however, PiS launched a strong attack on the liberal economic policies of their allies and overtook PO in opinion polls. PiS eventually gained 27% of votes cast and became the largest party in the sejm ahead of PO on 24%. The out-going ruling party, the socialist SLD, achieved just 11%.

Presidential elections in October followed a similar script. The early favourite, Donald Tusk, leader of the PO, saw his opinion poll lead slip away and was beaten 54% to 46% in the second round by the PiS candidate Lech Kaczyński (one of the twins, founders of the party).

Both elections were blighted by low turn-outs: only 51% in the second and deciding round of the presidential election and just over 40% in the parliamentary election. The suggested cause of the low turnout is popular disillusionment with politicians.

Coalition talks ensued simultaneously with the presidential elections. However, the severity of the campaign attacks and the willingness of PiS to court the populist vote had soured the relationship between the two largest parties and made the creation of a stable coalition impossible. The ostensible stumbling blocks were the insistence of PiS that it control all aspects of law enforcement: the Ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs, and the special forces; as well as the forcing through of a PiS candidate for the head of the Sejm with help of several smaller populist parties. The PO decided to go into opposition.

PiS then formed a minority government with the previously little-known Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz as Prime Minister. This has since relied on the tacit and rather stable support of smaller populist and agrarian parties (PSL, Samoobrona, LPR) to govern.

The new government has enjoyed quite strong public support (as is, in fact, generally common in the first few months after an election), while the popularity of the populist parties giving it support has significantly waned. With this background, a parliamentary crisis appeared to loom in January 2006, with these small populist parties fearing that PiS was about to force new elections (on which they would lose out) by using the pretext of failing to pass the budget within the constitutional timeframe. However, this crisis appears to have abated.

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term, the prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Sejm. The Council of Ministers is responsible to the prime minister and the Sejm; the prime minister proposes, the president appoints, and the Sejm approves the Council of Ministers.

Legislative branch
The Polish Parliament has two chambers. The lower chamber (Sejm) has 460 members, elected for a four year term by proportional representation in multi-seat constituencies with a 5 % threshold (8% for coalitions, requirement waived for national minorities). The Senate (Senat) has 100 members elected for a four year term in 40 multi-seat constituencies. Since 1991 elections are supervised by the National Electoral Commission (Państwowa Komisja Wyborcza), whose administrative division is called the National Electoral Office (Krajowe Biuro Wyborcze).

Judicial branch
The judges of Poland's Supreme Court are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Council of the Judiciary for an indefinite period. Constitutional Tribunal, judges are chosen by the Sejm for nine-year terms. Other central courts include the State Tribunal, and the Supreme Administrative Court. Furthermore the Supreme Chamber of Control, the Attorney General and the Ombudsman are relevant institutions.

Poland has a mixture of Continental (Napoleonic) civil law and holdover communist legal theory, although the latter is being gradually removed as part of a broader and ongoing reform process. The Constitutional Tribunal supervises the compliance of statutory law with the Constitution, and annuls laws which do not comply. Its rulings are final (since October 1999); court decisions can be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Developments since 2005
In the presidential election of 2005, Lech Aleksander Kaczyński
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