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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Q&A: Polish elections
Poster of Lech Kaczynski, presidential candidate and leader of Law and Justice party
Election poster of Law and Justice party leader Lech Kaczynski

Poland goes to the polls on Sunday in a general election widely expected to bring defeat to the ruling former Communists. The BBC News website looks at some of the key election issues.

Q: What is the system?

The 460-seat lower house, the Sejm, is elected by proportional representation.

The 100-strong Senate by contrast is formed under a first-past-the-post system.

There is a 5% threshold which parties must cross to win Sejm seats - or 8% in the case of alliances.

A party needs 231 seats to win an absolute majority.

Q: Who are the front-runners?

OBOP Poll 23 Sep
Civic Platform - 32%
Law and Justice - 30%
League of Polish Families - 5%
Self-Defence - 10%
Democratic Left Alliance - 8%
Polish Peasant Party - 7%

Polls suggest six parties could make it to parliament, with two leading the way:

The Civic Platform (PO) leads in most polls. A centre-right party, it strongly promotes free market forces. Its chairman, Donald Tusk, is favourite to win the presidency. Jan Rokita is the party's prime minister designate.

Law and Justice (PiS), led by twins Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski, is also centre-right but with a more conservative edge. It is suspicious of economic liberalism. One recent poll put PiS ahead. Lech Kaczynski is another front-runner for the presidency.

Both parties promise a return to the values of the Solidarity movement that toppled communism, but differ on issues such as the budget and taxation.

Q: What of the ex-communists?

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) is the successor to the Soviet-era communist Polish United Workers Party and is Poland's main left-wing party.

It was the largest party in the outgoing parliament, but has seen its support dwindle after a number of corruption scandals.

Q: Who else could scrape through?

The League of Polish Families (LPR) represents the nationalist, pro-Catholic strand in Polish politics, traditionally suspicious of privatisation, free markets and the EU.

Then there are two anti-Western parties representing Polish farmers: the radical left-wing Self-Defence (SO) and the more traditional Polish Peasant Party (PSL).

Q: What of the Senate?

GfK Poll 23 Sep
Civic Platform - 34%
Law and Justice - 29%
League of Polish Families - 7%
Self-Defence - 11%
Democratic Left Alliance - 4%
Polish Peasants Party - 5%

The first-past-the-post system traditionally gives a chance to local "favourite sons". Many such candidates have again registered.

This is also where "single-issue" candidates are likely to stand, meaning the upper house often differs in its makeup from the lower.

Q: What are the issues?

  • Unemployment: Poland had a baby boom in the early 1980s which is credited in part for today's high unemployment.

  • Crime and corruption: These issues have hit the ruling Democratic Left Alliance hard.

  • Taxation: This divides the main players, with Law and Justice strongly opposed to the Civic Platform's 15% flat-rate scheme. Law and Justice says such a "liberal experiment" favours the rich.

  • EU membership: The widely accepted economic benefits of Poland's EU entry mean the issue is less divisive this time.

  • Voter apathy: Electoral turnouts in Poland have been falling since 1989.

Q: What happened last time?

The last general election in September 2001 was won by the leftist SLD.

This followed government by a coalition of Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union. Neither got into the new Sejm.

Observers point to a "pendulum" effect in Poland, where a four-yearly Right-Left alternation has been in place since 1989.

Q: How soon will the results be known?

Initial results should be known in the night after polling day, with official results announced on 27 September.

Q: What about the presidency?

Sejm Speaker and former foreign minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has pulled out of the race amidst concerns over his share dealings.

The move is seen as the latest blow to the Democratic Left Alliance and leaves the field open to centre-right rivals Donald Tusk (Civic Platform) and Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski (Law and Justice).

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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