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The impact of the 1998 local elections on the emerging polish party system

By Aleks Szczerbiak


The October 1998 Polish local elections were the first in the post-communist period to be dominated by national political groupings rather than locally brokered coalitions. As such, they provide us with a unique opportunity to identify shifts in the level of support for each of the main parties and groupings and to make judgements about the future shape of the party system. Despite the difficulties in identifying the precise implications for each particular grouping, they broadly confirmed and clarified the distribution of support that has been emerging since the September 1997 parliamentary elections. Polish voters appear to be developing relatively clear and stable political preferences and everything points to the consolidation of a previously fragmented and unstable party system around two large and fairly evenly matched formations (a centre-right bloc emerging from the Solidarity camp and a centre-left based on the heirs of their communist opponents) with the balance of power determined by two medium-sized 'centrist' parties (one liberal and one agrarian). In spite of suffering a major setback in its first independent electoral outing, the most significant challenger to this emerging four-party cartel is probably a radical right-wing Catholic-nationalist formation based on the fundamentalist Radio Maryja broadcaster. However, although there are superficial similarities with more established Western party systems, a key difference remains that the Polish 'right' and 'left' are defined primarily on the basis of attitudes towards the communist past and their approach to moral and cultural rather than socio-economic issues

Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 1999
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