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). The president, elected every five 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.
Parties represented in the Sejm are Civic Platform (PO), Law and Justice (PiS), the Polish People's Party (PSL), the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Social Democracy of Poland (SDPL), Poland XXI, and the Democratic Party (PD).
Principal Government Officials
President--Bronislaw Komorowski (PO)
Prime Minister--Donald Tusk (PO)
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy--Waldemar Pawlak (PSL)
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Radoslaw Sikorski (PO)
Minister of Defense--Bogdan Klich (PO)
Minister of Finance--Jacek Rostowski (non-party)
Minister of Treasury--Aleksander Grad (PO)
Minister of Science and Higher Education--Barbara Kudrycka (PO)
Minister of Education--Katarzyna Hall (PO)
Minister of Agriculture--Marek Sawicki (PSL)
Minister of Environment--Andrzej Kraszewski (nonparty)
Minister of Health--Ewa Kopacz (PO)
Minister of Culture and National Heritage--Bogdan Zdrojewski (PO)
Minister of Interior and Administration--Jerzy Miller (nonparty)
Minister of Infrastructure--Cezary Grabarczyk (PO)
Minister of Justice--Krzysztof Kwiatkowski (PO)
Minister of Labor and Social Policy--Jolanta Fedak (PSL)
Minister of Regional Development--Elzbieta Bienkowska (non-party)
Minister of Sport--Adam Giersz (nonparty)
Member of the Council of Ministers - Minister without Portfolio--Michal Boni (PO)
Ambassador to the United States--Robert Kupiecki
Deputy Chief of Mission--Maciej Pisarski
Poland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2640 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-234-3800/3801/3802); the consular annex is at 2224 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-3800). Poland has consulates in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.
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), Poland XXI, and the Democratic Party (PD).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
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Poland today is ethnically almost homogeneous (98% Polish), in contrast with the World War II period, when there were significant ethnic minorities--4.5 million Ukrainians, 3 million Jews, 1 million Belarusians, and 800,000 Germans. The majority of the Jews were murdered during the German occupation in World War II, and many others emigrated in the succeeding years.
Most Germans left Poland at the end of the war, while many Ukrainians and Belarusians lived in territories incorporated into the then-U.S.S.R. Small Ukrainian, Belarusian, Slovakian, and Lithuanian minorities reside along the borders, and a German minority is concentrated near the southwest city of Opole.
Nationality: Noun--Pole(s). Adjective--Polish.
Population (2009): 38.1 million.
Annual growth rate: Unchanging.
Ethnic groups: Polish 98%, German, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian.
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, Eastern Orthodox, Uniate, Protestant, Judaism.
Health (2009): Infant mortality rate-6.8/1,000. Life expectancy--males 71.5 yrs., females 80.1 yrs.
Work force: 17.0 million. Industry and construction-31.3%; agriculture-13.3%; services--55.6%.