Poland Between 1989 and 2006
The center-right and center-left governments that had alternated after the first free elections, held in 1989, had failed to give political and economic stability to the country, which at the turn of the century still appeared shaken by profound social conflicts and pervaded by a widespread sense of uncertainty and mistrust towards the ruling elites, as evidenced by the low turnout that characterized the legislative elections of the nineties (43.2 % of those entitled in 1991, 52.1 % in 1993, 47.9 % in 1997). The Poland had achieved some of the objectives it had set itself: it had consolidated the democratic structures with the launch of a new Constitution (1997), created a market economy and attracted foreign capital, but this had not translated into a general improvement. of living conditions: the unemployment rate was high and growth slow, and the support offered by social services had ceased, reduced by cuts in public spending. Poverty was particularly acute in rural areas, but it also affected urban areas, where crime had become a rampant phenomenon.
Attempts by the center-right government led by J. Buzek (in office since 1997) to force economic development through an acceleration of privatization and a drastic downsizing of the state’s commitment to services, produced no appreciable results, and caused strikes and protests, which followed one another several times in the years 1998-2000. The growing unpopularity of the executive contributed to exacerbate internal conflicts and shattered the governing majority (formed by the coalition Akcja Wyborcza Solidarno ść, AWS, Electoral Action of Solidarność, and the Unia Wolno ś ci, UW, Union for freedom), which presented itself thus divided at the electoral appointment for the renewal of the office of President of the Republic (Oct. 2000). This allowed outgoing president A. Kwaśniewski, candidate of Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (SLD, Democratic Left Alliance), to get re-elected in the first round with 53.9 %. L. Wałęsa, first president of the post-communist Poland and emblem of the transition towards the democratic regime, obtained only 1 %.
Even the elections of September 2001 (which again saw a low turnout, estimated at 46.3 %) confirmed the mistrust of the electorate towards the government forces, which, hit by a wave of scandals linked to episodes of corruption and increasingly divided on economic problems, they suffered a resounding defeat, remaining completely excluded from the new institutional arrangements. In fact, neither the AWS nor the UW managed to overcome the barrier provided for by the new electoral law approved in April 2001 (5% for parties and 8 % for coalitions), and thus remained without any parliamentary representation (they had passed from 33.8 % and from 13.4% respectively obtained in 1997 at 5.6 % and 3.1 %). The conservative electorate rewarded the newly formed parties, such as the centrist Platforma Obywatelska (PO, Civic Platform), which obtained 12.7 % and 65 seats, but above all the right-wing formations, which had presented themselves with strongly tone programs. populists, anti-Europeans and racists, particularly appreciated by medium and small agricultural producers: Samoobrona Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (SRP, Self-defense of the Polish Republic; later Samoobrona) won 10.2 % and 53 seats, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS, Law and Justice) 9.5 % and 44 seats, the Liga Polskich Rodzin (LPR, League of Polish Families) 7.9 % and 38 seats.
According to itypejob, the relative majority of the votes, however, went to the SLD, which won 41 % and 216 seats. Its leader L. Miller assumed the post of prime minister, and formed a coalition with centrist Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (PSL, Polish People’s Party), which had won 9 % and 42 seats.
The new prime minister set the overcoming of the financial crisis and the settlement of public debt among the priority objectives of his program, to achieve the necessary requirements for entry into the European Union (EU), and therefore continued the austerity policy of his predecessors. The improvement in public finances, appreciated by international financial organizations willing to grant new credit openings, was not enough, however, to compensate for the lack of dynamism of the economy and the persistence of high unemployment rates: social protest began to grow again and weakened the executive, whose stability was also compromised by the contrasts that arose within it in economic and fiscal matters. In March 2003Miller broke the coalition with the PSL and formed a minority government with a few small parties, the duration of which was however very short. In January 2004, a new crisis led to the breaking of the agreement. Miller, forced to face harsh criticism even from many members of his own party, in February left the leadership of the SLD and in May, after the official entry of the Poland into the EU, he resigned. He was replaced by M. Belka, who formed an executive of a mainly technical nature, aimed at completing the legislature in view of the upcoming elections. Held in September 2005, the consultations, characterized by an even lower turnout than the previous ones (40.6%), marked the announced collapse of the SLD, which dropped to 11.3 % and to 55 seats, while some of the right-wing and center parties were established: the PiS tripled votes and seats (27 % and 155) and the PO there doubled (24.1 % and 133) ; Samoobrona (11.4 % and 56 seats) and the LPR (8% and 34 seats), on the other hand, remained almost stable, while the PSL dropped (9 % and 25 seats). The following month the PiS candidate, L. Kaczyński, was elected President of the Republic in the second round.
After the negotiations with the PO failed, the PiS formed a minority government led by K. Marcinkiewicz, with the external support of Samoobrona and the LPR.
The new executive presented a program with strong nationalist and anti-European tones and, appealing mainly to traditional Catholic values, announced the start of a ‘moral renaissance’ campaign aimed at restoring internal order, including through the restoration of the death penalty.. On the economic level, he promised the maintenance and strengthening of the welfare state.
In May 2006 the PiS made a formal agreement with Samoobrona and the LPR, who thus became part of the government, whose leadership in July was taken over by J. Kaczyński, twin brother of the president and outgoing leader of the PiS.
In foreign policy, Poland improved in recent years both relations with European governments and those with Moscow and Washington, with a view to general openness and increase in trade. However, after the victory of the right, this line seemed to undergo substantial changes in favor of an accentuated protection of the internal market.