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The Warsaw Voice » From the News Editor » September 2, 2011
From the News Editor
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Same Old Sejm, Motley Crew in Senate?
September 2, 2011   
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If the polls are right, the economically liberal Civic Platform (PO) will win the parliamentary elections this fall and become the first party in Poland to stay in power for a second term since the fall of communism in 1989. The two opposition parties represented in parliament, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) and the left-wing Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), are unlikely to narrow the gap that separates them from the PO. The only question is whether the PO will be able to form a government single-handedly after the elections or whether it will need a coalition partner.

If the latter is the case, the next question is if the Polish People’s Party (PSL) will remain the junior coalition partner or whether it will be replaced by the SLD , which keeps voicing its ambition to “share responsibility for the country.” The last time the SLD governed the country, together with the PSL, was in 2001-2005.

The polls give little hope to several smaller, recently formed parties. The Poland Comes First (PJN) grouping, formed by dissidents from PiS, started breaking up almost immediately after it was launched; it now has less than 15 deputies in the Sejm, the lower house of parliament. Backed by less than 5 percent of voters in the polls, the PJN is unlikely to make it into parliament. Probably the best it can hope to do at the ballot box is overshoot a 3 percent threshold, making it eligible for public subsidies and for some media attention in the process.

The future looks even bleaker for the Palikot Support Movement, a grouping founded by Janusz Palikot, the enfant terrible of Polish politics and a former prominent member of the PO. Support for the Palikot Support Movement in the polls is tiny, despite attention-grabbing moves such as putting candidates who have undergone sex-change operations, lesbian and gay activists and pro-marijuana campaigners on their election tickets—a provocative tactic in a predominately Catholic country.

The next Sejm promises to be full of familiar faces from the four parties represented in the current parliament, while the likes of Palikot and other colorful figures will probably continue to make newspaper headlines with their publicity stunts. Sessions of the lower house will probably remain predictable and uninteresting for the tabloids.

The next Senate, in turn, may provide observers of Poland’s political life some entertainment, because the coming elections to the upper house will introduce single-member constituencies. In a such vote, a contender’s party affiliation is less important than their popularity in a given constituency or nationwide. Senate election tickets this year will feature a large number of celebrities who have not had much to do with politics so far. Suddenly everybody is keen to run for the Senate, from athletes and singers to stars of television shows to relatives of those who perished in the presidential plane crash near Smolensk, to businesspeople, including individuals facing all kinds of criminal charges. Political scientists refer to this last group as “immunity seekers.” Wannabe senators also include quite a few politicians thrown out of their original parties amid scandals of one sort or another. They too are keen to make a return to public life and if all of them succeed in doing so, the usually boring Senate debates may suddenly become a draw for television viewers.
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