In the last of September’s elections, Poland elects a new parliament
today. Poland is an economic and political success story of
post-communist eastern Europe; it is the largest of last year’s ten new
EU members, and the sixth-largest country (by population) of the Union.

Despite that, the elections have had almost no coverage in the
Australian media. Even internationally it is hard to find, although
there were stories yesterday on the BBC and in Le Monde (yes, sorry, in French). Further information is available from The Economist, although some of it is subscription-only.

One reason for the lack of coverage could be that the result is seen as
a foregone conclusion. Poland has alternated governments at every
election since the fall of communism, and this year will be no
exception; the winners in 2001, the social-democratic Alliance of the
Democratic Left, have fallen below 10% in the opinion polls, and should
be replaced by a centre-right coalition of the Citizens Platform and
the Law and Justice party.

The likely coalition partners are each said to have about 30% support,
so it is uncertain which of the two will lead the new government. The
Law and Justice party is strongly conservative, appealing particularly
to Catholic voters, while Citizens Platform is a more liberal
free-market party, providing some inbuilt tensions for the new
government. There are also some smaller centrist groups, and populist
parties on both right and left.

Poland will return to the polls next month for presidential elections
to replace the retiring Aleksander Kwasniewski, which are expected to
be a more closely-fought left-right contest. Curiously enough, the Law
and Justice Party’s presidential candidate, Lech Kaczynski, is the twin
brother of the party’s leader in today’s elections: the BBC claims that
“some voters cannot even tell them apart.”

Peter Fray

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