EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Outcome of parliamentary elections 2011

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The new Polish parliament was elected in October 2011 and a government formed in mid-November. For the first time since 1989 the previous coalition has retained power. The reelected centre-right Civic Platform and Polish People’s Party is planning in-depth reforms of the Polish economy but is not interested in the significant participation of the social partners. However, social partners have unanimously demanded immediate social dialogue with the Prime Ministry.

Results of the elections

Poland’s new parliament was elected on 9 October 2011. Most votes (39%) went to the Civic Platform (PO), a centre-right party with affinities to the Christian Democratic movement, the ruling party of the previous government. The right-wing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) came second with almost 30% of the vote; a new political party, the leftist Palikot Movement (Ruch Palikota) set up by former Civic Platform MP Janusz Palikot and registered only five months before the elections, won 10% of the vote, ahead of two long-established parties, the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) (8.3%), and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) (8.2)%.

The polarisation between PO and PiS remains the defining political division in Poland. Developments on the Left, however, surprised most analysts. The Palikot Movement managed to enter the tightly guarded political scene while the SLD received its lowest electoral support in its history.

Government’s formation and plans

For the first time in democratic Poland, the same coalition has remained in power for a second term of office. The PO and PSL coalition has also retained Civic Platform’s Donald Tusk as Prime Minister.

In his policy address, the Prime Minister outlined the government’s programme for its four-year term. The most significant proposals included:

  • equalising the retirement age of women and men (currently 60 for women and 65 for men) and raising the retirement age to 67;
  • restricting retirement privileges for miners to those working under ground;
  • raising the retirement age for uniformed services to 55;
  • increasing the employers’ pension contribution from salaries by two percentage points, up to 8%;
  • raising tax allowances for families with children by 50% for families with three children or more, although families earning more than PLN 85,000 (€20,113 as of 28 January 2012) per year will be entitled to the tax allowance only if they have two children or more;
  • taxing the extraction of copper, shale gas and silver;
  • bringing the taxation of farmers into line with that of other taxpayers.

Social partner reaction and changes in Tripartite Commission

Within days of the Prime Minister’s policy address, social partners unanimously appealed for immediate social dialogue, asking to join the discussions of the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic Affairs (KT) because the government plans were controversial and touched on all spheres of social dialogue. At the same time the Minister of Economy, Waldemar Pawlak of the PSL, said he no longer wanted to chair the tripartite commissions and suggested the Minister of Finance, PO’s Jacek Rostowski, should take on the role. The Minister of Finance declined.

Both trade union and employer organisation representatives said the government was not treating them as partners. Ministers have blocked the work of KT by, for example, either not appearing at meetings or coming unprepared. Social partners also complained that the Prime Minister had not appointed new KT members after the elections.

In January 2012 the position of Chair of KT remained vacant. The Prime Minister has not appointed anyone to replace the Minister of Economy.


The reelected government is not interested in social dialogue. Although it plans significant reforms, it will not be easy for the social partners to participate in them. It is likely that social dialogue in Poland will continue with little participation from the government in the next few years.

Ewelina Kuźmicz, Institute of Public Affairs

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