BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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The Parliamentary Election
HITS: 2389 | 10-01-2006, 00:56 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
 (Votes #: 0)

To gain representation in the 460 seat Sejm inidividual parties have to surmount a 5% threshold, which is set at 8% for coalitions. There are 100 members of the Senate. Ten parties were registered in all electoral districts. A parliament runs for 4 years while the president is elected to serve a five year term.
The Democratic Left Alliance - (SLD) the victor of the 2001 elections, albeit in coalition. SLD promised a "return to roots" on the left. The party’s new leader Wojciech Olejniczak wants to cut unemployment. It should also take an active part in talks on the EU Constitution.
Polish Social Democracy (SdPl) -Labour Union-Greens coalition - party that broke away from the SLD in 2004 to distance itself from its post-communist legacy.
Polish Peasant Party - Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (PSL) a traditional agrarian populist grouping, led by Waldemar Pawlak who was prime minister in 1993-95, the party was part of the ruling coalition in 1993-97.
Democratic Party - (PD) Free market, liberal party successor to the Freedom Union (UW), which participated in 1989-1993 governments, but which has not had seats in the Sejm since 2001. Previous prime minister, Marek Belka and his former deputy, Jerzy Hausner, both joined.
Civic Platform - Platforma Obywatelska (PO) Centre-right party that emerged in 2000 from sections of the UW. It is the most pro-free market of the major parties and supported a "flat tax" with uniform and low single rates for personal income, corporation and value added tax. Other priorities included further privatization, cuts in spending on state administration, laws favourable to small and medium-sized businesses, the holding of state officials legally liable for wrongful decisions.
Law and Justice - (PiS) centre-right founded in 2001 and led by the twin brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski. PiS stressed law and order issues and modified economic liberalism. The party is firmly anti-communist and said its first bills on taking office would be to establish anti-corruption and national security offices. PiS wants to maintain a progressive tax system. However, as their proposal was for a 32% band for high earners and 18% for the rest, this effectively added up to a flat tax as 99% of Polls would fall into the 18% bracket.
League of Polish Families - Liga Polskich Rodzin (LPR) Established in 2001 from the merger of many small right-wing groupings, it is seen as nationalist and suspicious of privatization, free markets and the EU. The League wants to restrict the independence of the central bank and renegotiate the EU accession treaty.
Samoobrana registered in all but one electoral district. It grew out of farmers' direct action protests in the 1990s. Commentators feel Lepper's party has latterly been seeking to position itself to takeover the more left-wing electorate of the SLD. Samoobrana wants an increased minimum wage, taxation changes, subordination of the central bank and the use of its reserves "to secure" investments, and the "vetting" of assets and the economy.
Three of the groupings that have achieved national registration are nonetheless marginal and have never won parliamentary seats on their own account:
Patriotic Movement - Ruch Patriotyczny (RP) right-wing grouping of ex-Prime Minister Jan Olszewski and sometime Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who have failed to reach agreement with the LPR, despite having got into parliament on the LPR ticket in 2001.
Polish National Party - Polska Partia Narodowa (PPN) The party of the anti-Semitic activist and journalist Leszek Bubel.
Polish Labour Party - Polska Partia Pracy (PPP) A left-wing grouping led by Daniel Podrzycki. The party manifesto is entitled "Work and Bread."[1]

Parliamentary Election: BHHRG observations
BHHRG observed the parliamentary election in northern Poland – Gdynia, Gdansk and the eastern Warmia Mazuria region. As in 2001, the region was plastered with candidates’ posters and, again, BHHRG was told by voters that they did not know who most of them were. Election expenditure relative to average incomes must be several times what it is in Britain given the universality of billboard posters, but local campaigning (as in the UK) has given way in Poland to television slots and debates conducted from Warsaw.

Nearly everywhere visited, BHHRG was afforded only the minimum assistance by commission chairmen (and women) during both parliamentary and presidential polls. The Group’s observers were not allowed to look at the voters registers and in some polling stations, officials refused to divulge any facts at all e.g. number of registered voters, the size of the turnout at the time the observers visited. They were not allowed to be present during the count. The low turnout in both elections was a source of embarrassment to the Polish political establishment which may have accounted for their coyness on the subject. At polling station No. 3 (Gdansk) BHHRG observers were ushered out of the polling station and threatened with the security personnel.
People complained about the size of the ballot paper (A2 ) which they had difficulty in manoeuvring in the polling booths – many were later invalidated due to tears as people tried to force them into the narrow slit of the ballot box. After the count c.450,000 invalid ballot papers were reported by the CEC. People also seemed confused by the procedure for voting in the senatorial election which allowed a voter to pick up to three candidates. They were worried that if they ticked one name only it would be easy for someone to tick the other two names at a later stage.
In rural regions i.e. Zulawy and Mazuria, residents told BHHRG that at least 10% of the local population had left to work abroad as there were no jobs in the area. Nevertheless, such people’s names were still on the electoral register: In Polling station, No. 7 in Gdynia, BHHRG’s Polish representative found that his name was still on the register even though he has lived in the UK for the past 8 years and has no “propiska”. Mass migration and bureaucratic reluctance to remove non-residents from the registers opens up the possibility that unscrupulous officials could top up the turnout with votes from “dead souls” long gone picking cabbages in Norfolk or walking the streets of Birmingham.
Every second person interviewed distrusted the opinion polls and thought they were outright dishonest or plain rigged. 19 out of 24 people interviewed said that the only popular party was Samoobrana but when the official results were produced the party only gained 14% of the votes in the region.
BHHRG is publishing the turnout at the time its observers visited polling stations for both the parliamentary and presidential poll to demonstrate the low level of participation during both elections. On 23rd October, the State Election Commission reported a 8.56% turnout at 10.30 in the morning which mirrors BHHRG’s observations that day.
Polling stations visited in the 1st round of the parliamentary elections on 25th September. They visited Gdynia No. 7 and Ostaszewo No. 1 twice during the day.

Gdynia, No. 7, (11.30) 2214 registered voters. 392 have voted
Gdansk No. 3, (12.15) Officials refused to give any information
Nowy Dwor Gdanski No.3 (14.35) 1413 reg., 190 voted ( approx. 12%)
Jeglownik No. 2 (15.55) 1616 reg. 216 voted (c. 15%)
Ostaszewo No. 1, (17.15) 1758 reg., 470 voted (approx. 28%)
Gdansk No. 45 (19.50) 1749 reg., approx 50% voted.

Votes                        %               seats           senators

PiS                 3,185,714               27             155                49

PO                  2,849,259               24.1          133                34

Samoobrana   1,347,355               11.4           56

SLD                1,335,257               11.3            55

League            940,726                  8.0             34                  7

PSL                 821,656                  7.0              25                  2

German Minority  34,469                                    2

Non partisan senators                                                             5

Official results and distribution of seats in the Sejm and Senate:

Registered voters: 30,338,316
Turnout: 40.6% 11,804,676
Invalid votes: 451,199

The results basically confirmed pre-election opinion polls, although PO did not do as well as expected, coming second with 24.1% of the vote. PiS probably picked up support by intensifying its commitment to the poor as the campaign drew to a close. BHHRG found voters who had chosen PiS for that reason – although, in many cases, they agreed that they were clutching at straws. The SLD performed better than expected with 11.3% of the vote. The media had predicted that the party would be wiped out, but as one commentator remarked “people keep their left wing views to themselves for fear of being ridiculed”.[2] Such is Poland is 2005.


[1] Election data taken from BBC election guides available at www.bbcmonitoringonline.com,
[2] “The SLD – Still Breathing” Polish Monthly, 10/2005.

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