Political Structure of Poland

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The current government structure consists of a council of ministers led by a Prime Minister, typically chosen from the majority coalition in the bicameral legislature's lower house (Sejm).

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The president, elected every 5 years for no more than two terms, is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The judicial branch plays a minor role in decision-making.

The parliament consists of the 460-member Sejm and the 100-member Senate, or upper house. The new constitution and the reformed administrative division (as of 1999) required a revision of the election ordinance (passed in April 2001).

The most important changes were liquidation of a national list (all deputies are elected by voters in electoral districts) and the stipulation of an electoral threshold--with the exception of guaranteed seats for small ethnic parties, only parties receiving at least 5% of the total vote could enter parliament.

In August 2002, the electoral law was amended, reintroducing the d'Hondt method of calculating seats, which provides a premium for the leading parties. This method was applied in the 2005 and 2007 elections.

Constitution: The constitution now in effect was approved by a national referendum on May 25, 1997.

The constitution codifies Poland's democratic norms and establishes checks and balances among the president, prime minister, and parliament.

It also enhances several key elements of democracy, including judicial review and the legislative process, while continuing to guarantee the wide range of civil rights, such as the right to free speech, press, and assembly, which Poles have enjoyed since 1989.

Branches:

Executive--head of state (president), head of government (prime minister).

Legislative--bicameral National Assembly (lower house--Sejm, upper house--Senate). Judicial--Supreme Court, provincial and local courts, constitutional tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions: 16 provinces (voivodships).

Political parties: Civic Platform (PO), Law and Justice (PiS), the Polish People's Party (PSL), the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Social Democracy of Poland (SDPL).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.