Poland: Early elections

The Polish Sejm, or lower house of parliament, voted (by more than the required two thirds) to dissolve itself and go to early elections.

Poland is a premier-presidential system with a fairly powerful presidency; nonetheless, the president can ensure his allies control the prime minister’s chair and the cabinet only if the balance of partisan forces in parliament is favorable to him.

Of course, following the most recent elections about two years ago, not only did President Lech Kaczynski manage to place an ally in the prime minister’s chair. He was able to get his twin brother as PM.

The campaign is underway and already “bitter.” Who will win? In Poland’s volatile and fragmented party system, it is hard to say, but clearly the twins are anticipating a changed parliamentary balance that will permit them to realign what has been an unstable coalition.

The crisis that triggered the decision to dissolve parliament came to a head when the Prime Minister fired Andrzej Lepper, the leader of Self Defense, from his position as deputy prime minister and agriculture minister, resulting in a cabinet lacking a parliamentary majority.

Civic Platform [a pro-business party], which according to two recent but conflicting opinion polls, is either running neck-and-neck with [the ruling] Law and Justice or trailing it, will in any case need at least one coalition partner if it manages to win the most votes in October.

The party is already considering the possibility of a coalition with the small leftist Polish Peasant Party. The problem for Donald Tusk, the leader of Civic Platform, is that the newly established Left party, led by the former President Aleksander Kwasniewski, is also trying to bring this peasant party into his movement.

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the twins’ Law and Justice party intend to tap the rural vote, which went mostly for rivals Self Defense or for the Polish Peasant Party in 2005. The campaign will try to make it a fight against corruption, which may seem odd for a party (and family) that currently controls both the presidency and the prime ministership, but, of course, Law and Justice is blaming its erstwhile partner for the corruption (as well as clearly attempting to emphasize it stands for what its rather empty label implies).

The election will be 21 October.

Click on “Poland” above to see entries relating to the previous elections (both presidential and parliamentary) and the twins.

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