Polish election

Poland holds parliamentary elections today. The main contenders for the premiership are the Civic Platform of incumbent Donald Tusk and the Law and Justice Party of former PM Jaroslav Kaczynski.

As Euronews notes:

Whoever wins tonight will have to form a coalition with one or more of three smaller parties including Tusk’s current junior partner the Polish Peasants’ Party, which is seeing its support slip.

A left-wing liberal newcomer, Palikot’s Movement, a splinter from Civic Platform, may confuse matters. Among other things it wants to eliminate the power and privileges of the Catholic church in public life.

The latter party is interesting, not only due to its newness, but because it clearly is attempting to shake up the existing Polish political spectrum, through both its party platform and the profiles of its individual candidates. DW reports:

Palikot became notorious in Poland’s conservative circles because of his outspoken attacks on the church. Insiders say this was also the reason why he was kicked out of the ruling Civic Platform party, which was keen not to upset the church. In this election campaign, Palikot has made anticlericalism his main weapon.

The party’s lists of candidates are also of interest:

Its candidates include Anna Grodzka, a transsexual woman whose public battle with the Polish legal system after sex reassignment surgery made her something of a celebrity, and Poland’s best-known gay activist, Robert Biedron.

Poland uses open-list PR, ((That is, once parties are assigned seats in proportion to their votes in multi-seat districts, those seats are assigned within each party’s lists solely on the basis of how many votes candidates receive personally. Under Poland’s variant, the voter must cast a candidate-preference vote, as there is no party-only option.)) so the personal followings of candidates can be critical to the success of a party, especially a new one like Palikot’s. An article from this past July, when Palikot was still setting up his party, said that “Palikot also declared that figures from the worlds of sport and music were in line to run as candidates for his party.” He also said his lists would have equal numbers of men and women, as well as many young people. “It’s time to cure the Polish party system, which is ill and undemocratic,” he said in the interview.

While the Euronews story, quoted above, gets it right, other news items (and especially headlines) predictably fail to appreciate multiparty politics. For instance, Business Week’s “Poles may re-elect premier” and Reuters Canada’s “Polish PM seeks new reform mandate in election“.

Poland has a highly fragmented party system, so the leading party is quite likely to have only around a third of the votes and seats. This will necessitate post-election coalition bargaining. Plus, the presidency in Poland’s premier-presidential system is far from merely ceremonial. ((That is, the presidency is directly elected. The prime minister and cabinet are responsible to the majority in parliament (the Sejm, the first chamber of the bicameral legislature). The president has no constitutional authority to dismiss a PM, but has initiative in designating a PM-to-be. Poland’s president also has a veto on legislation that requires 3/5 to override.)) The presidency is held by Civic Platform, whose candidate Bronislaw Komorowski defeated Kaczynsni, 53-47, in a runoff in July, 2010. In the first round of that election, Komorowski won around 41% of the vote. Can his party come close to that level in an election more than one year after the presidential election? Typically, the answer in presidential and semi-presidential elections would be no: beyond the president’s “honeymoon” and with the presidency itself not at stake, we can expect the party to poll considerably lower. The fact that the party holds the presidency, however, makes it likely that it will also retain the premiership, following post-election bargaining. The only hope for Kaczinnski would be a decisive lead, plus a good showing for parties clearly more compatible with his party than with Komorowski’s. That seems unlikely.

19 thoughts on “Polish election

  1. Now that his party has come in third place, “Palikot is now trying to project a more serious image and says he is ready to discuss cooperation or even joining a coalition with Tusk’s PO [Civic Platform]” (Reuters).

    Tusk’s party won 39%. Contrary to what I suggested above, this is close to what the party’s presidential candidate won in last year’s first round. The Civic Platform will have 206 seats (44.8%). Kaczynski’s Law and Justice won 30% of the vote and 157 seats (34.1%). Then comes Palikot (10% votes, 40 seats for 8.7%). It looks like much of the Palikot gain came at the expense of the Democratic Left, which lost 27 seats compared to the previous election. Civic Platform list 3 seats and Law and Justice 9.

  2. Apparently the Polish Senate electoral system has been changed. At the Wikipedia page on the election it says (but without reference–or good grammar):

    For the first time, the Senate was be elected using the first past-the-post electoral method, with 1 member to be returned in each of the 100 single member constituencies. In previous elections, the Senate was elected using the plurality bloc voting system.

    The old system was what I prefer to call multiple non-transferable votes (MNTV), M=2, I believe.

  3. Is the Polish open party list system similar to Brazilian system or Finnish system? Albeit both do not have a nation wide 5% threshold.

    How many votes were cast for parties below the 5% threshold in the Polish election?

    What is the district magnitude? The district magnitude ranges from 7 to 19. It seems like this is a moderate system of Proportional representation with medium size to large size districts.

    The natural threshold should range from 12.5% to 5% if their was no nation wide 5% threshold.

    Does Poland have an at large tier of adjustment seats to ensure nation wide proportionality or is it just multi-member districts?


    The Polish system of PR seems a lot better than the Brazilian system of PR with a district magnitude of 8 to 70.

    Finland’s district magnitude range from 6 to 35.

    It seems like regionalism is what fragments a party system rather than a system of PR with a high district magnitude, and low threshold.

    Poland’s party system seems to be fragmented simply because of regionalism. This election has shown that the party system is consolidating now instead of every previous election, Poland had a party realignment.

    It has a very good system of Open Party List PR with medium size districts to large districts, and a moderate nationwide threshold of 5%.

  4. Unless things have changed again recently, there is no nationwide tier. There was one in some of the early elections (1991 being the first PR election).

    The preference vote is required to cast a vote (as in Finland).

  5. How does the preference vote work in an Open Party List system? It is not like the STV system where one ranks candidates by using numbers.

    It seems confusing to read political science literature and they talk about the preference vote in an Open Party List system, and one things ranking candidates by numbers.

    Does one just preference a candidate in an open party list system, and all the votes are pulled to the party?

  6. @ Suaprazzodi The way preferences work depends on the system. As I understand it, Polish voters get one vote which must be given to a candidate. These votes pool to the lists and seats are distributed in each district by the D’Hondt method to parties achieving 5% of the nationwide vote, coalitions achieving 8%, or to parties representing national minorities. There is no nationwide tier for adjustment seats, which is why the PO was able to achieve such a large advantage ratio (1.13).

    @MSS, I looked over the Wiki article a bit and fixed the error you mentioned (and two more).

  7. @Suaprazzodi I meant to mention this, but I forgot and am not being allowed to edit my comment; seats go to the top N candidates by personal vote, as in Finland and Brazil where N is the number of seats to which a list is entitled.

  8. Using the rough and incomplete results from here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15230750 (and assuming that the missing seat went to the German minority party), I calculated a Lsq index for this election of 4.63, which compares pretty well with the last cycle and shows considerable improvement from past elections.

    2011: 4.63
    2007: 4.67
    2005: 6.97
    2001: 6.29
    1997: 10.51

    The effective number of parties by vote was

    2011: 3.46
    2007: 3.32
    2005: 5.86
    2001: 4.48
    1997: 4.51

    This compares to the effective number by seats

    2011: 3.01
    2007: 2.82
    2005: 4.26
    2001: 3.60
    1997: 2.93

    It looks to me like the party system is a bit unstable but has moved towards one of two strong parties and some flanking ones. It’s just that a party can find itself flung from first to third in one cycle!

  9. I keep doing comparisons of the different types of Party List systems of Proportional Representation.

    Is the Turkish system of PR like the Polish system?

    What would be needed to improve the Turkish system of PR? I know that Turkey’s system of PR is closed list, and not opened, the threshold is a very high 10%.

    I thought most open-party list systems where one voted for their favorite party, and then they vote again for a candidate within that same party. It is like akin to a primary election held at the same time as the general election.

    I thought the Single Transferable Vote was complicated to figure out.

  10. @Suaprazzodi
    One at a time, please!
    Well, I’m not sure that there is a “most” for open party lists. There are all kinds of variations. You can find a summary here: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Open_list Poland’s system would fall under “most open list”.

    Most countries with “open” lists would fall under “relatively closed” or “more open”, which are generally referred to on F&V as “flexible lists”.

    Turkey is, frankly, a bit of a basket case. You point out the 10% threshold, but there are at least two other systemic problems. One, the district magnitude is too small, averaging 6.5. This sharply limits proportionality among parties that do manage to break the threshold. Two, the 10% threshold does not apply to independents. Now, of course one couldn’t very well apply such a threshold to independents but with the very high party threshold there is a strong incentive for groups that would be small parties to run candidates as independents. See: fruitsandvotes.com/?p=5523#comments Basically, Turkey needs to cut its threshold in half and increase average district magnitude to at least 10 or so.

  11. Would an open party list system be good for the U.S? What would be the pros and cons in such a system?

    I see that there would be more pros than cons in the sense, that reapportionment would be much easier, and there would be no need to redraw districts, no more gerrymandering which would be nice, and no special elections if a member of Congress dies or has to resign because of a scandal. People would loose connection to their local representative although I am sure that most Americans do not even know who even represents them in the artificial house district that they live in.

    If the U.S House was expanded to the cube root size, (The Wyoming Rule) and each state is treated as one multi-member district, albeit large states like California, and Texas might be broken up by Urban area. Wyoming would only elected one member, and every other state would have more than two seats.

    It probably would be wise that such a system be tried at the state level first to see how it would work. Sadly, PR is not an issue in the U.S. Would PR reduce pork barrel compared to the FPTP system that is used already? I heard that PR systems encourage more redistribution, and less parochial representation which is what we have already with compartmentalized district elections. Does it also lead to more centrist politics and moderation?

    • There is an entire “block” (category) devoted to the question of PR for the USA, as well as another on reform of the House. Please see the left sidebar; some of the discussion in this thread would fit nicely beneath past “plantings” in those blocks.

      Let’s keep this one focused on Polish elections.

      (Just trying to keep the orchard tidy.)

  12. @Suaprazzodi I suggest you have a look at my last blog post. I talk about how seats would be distributed under the cube root rule (which is not the same as the Wyoming rule). Other than that, some good resources on PR are:



    Personally, I think the Swedish system would work nicely here in the states. It’s like the Polish system except that some seats are allocated nationwide (but assigned to constituencies) in order to preserve proportionality. I have also seen talk of having a primary election which would determine the order of candidates on the lists then having closed lists on election day. That would dramatically simplify the general election ballot.

    • Sweden’s system is different from Poand’s in a fundamental sense: Swedish lists are ranked by the party, while Poland’s are not. So while Poland uses an open list, Sweden has “flexible” lists where the party order is the default unless individual candidates clear some threshold of preference votes.

  13. Finland has no adjustments seats (yet), and is one of the systems most similar to Poland: single preference vote, preference votes alone determine order of list, no option for a list-only vote, all seats allocated in (mostly relatively large) regional districts.

    A key difference between Finland and Poland is the national threshold in the latter.

  14. I wonder why the Finns didn’t just adopt some modified flavor of the Swedish system rather than venture into much more complex and less traveled waters.

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