Polish legislative election, 1957

Polish legislative election, 1957

The Polish legislative election, 1957 was the second election to the Sejm (parliament) of the People's Republic of Poland (and the third in the communist Poland). It took place on 20 January, during the liberalization period following Władysław Gomułka's ascension to power; although freer than previous elections, they were not a free election. Polish voters of 1957 were given the right to vote "against" official candidates; "de facto" having a small chance to express a vote of no confidence against the government and The Party, but no possibility to elect any real opposition, whose members were not allowed to run in the elections. The elections resulted in a predictable victory for the Front of National Unity coalition (dominated by main Polish communist party, the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR)), and communist leader, Władysław Gomułka.


Among various promises to the restless Polish population, the new Polish leader, First Secretary Gomułka, who ascended to power in the Polish October peaceful revolution also promised free elections. He knew that this was a promise that he could not keep without seeing his party defeated. In the January 1957 elections the new 'democratic' aspect was the reintroduction of the secret ballot, and more importantly, there were more candidates than available seats in the parliament;pl icon Bartłomiej Kozłowski, [http://wiadomosci.polska.pl/kalendarz/kalendarium/article.htm?id=87906 Wybory styczniowe do Sejmu 1957] Last accessed on 5 April 2007] in the 1952 elections the number of candidates equalled the number of seats in the Sejm. Another liberalizing factor was that unlike in previous elections, intimidation by the secret police (Służba Bezpieczeństwa) and the government against the opposition was limited.Richard F. Staar, "Elections in Communist Poland", Midwest Journal of Political Science, Vol. 2, No. 2 (May, 1958), pp. 200-218, [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0026-3397(195805)2%3A2%3C200%3AEICP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Z JSTOR] ]

The candidates were divided into two groups - one officially supported by the party and the 'independents' (broadly following the communist party line but not declared members of the party); the latter would be only considered if over half of the registered voters in the district voted against the official candidates; otherwise all seats from the district (on average between 3 to 6) would be awarded to the official candidates.

Over 60,000 candidates were registered for the 458pl icon Wojciech Roszkowski, [http://www.abcnet.com.pl/artykul_zas.php?art_id=130&w=n&token= NATOLIŃCZYCY I PUŁAWIANIE] . Last accessed on 5 April 2007.] or 459Ref_label|a|a|none seats in the Sejm. The government was not prepared to release its hold on power, so the candidates were screened and only 720 or 723 out of 60,000 were finally allowed to participate and be published on the official list by the Front of National Unity ( _pl. Front Jedności Narodu, FJN), the only organization allowed to put forth candidates in Polish elections. Factors such as the number of signatures in support of a candidate were deemed to be irrelevant.

According to an official government press agency dispatch, about half of the candidates (appox. 360) were PZPR members. A majority of the remainder belonged to PZPR allies (Democratic Party (SD), United People's Party (ZSL)). There was no opposition party in Poland since all political groupings had to support the program of the PZPR. As a result, no real opposition candidates were permitted to run in the elections, but in theory the Polish voters could have stripped the communists from their claimed legitimacy by abstaining from voting. Another means of preventing the PZPR from obtaining a political victory would have occurred if all of the PZPR candidates were struck out, leaving only 100 to be elected).

Despite the lack of genuine opposition, the liberalized election format allowed for various power struggles to be played out, primarily between the communist party candidates.Machcewicz, 2000] A particularly notable case was the rivalry between certain candidates from the main communist party (Polish United Workers' Party - PZPR) and one of the lesser communist parties (United People's Party - ZSL).

A day before the elections, Gomułka appealed to Polish citizens not to vote against the Party's candidates, asserting that 'crossing them out would equal crossing Poland off the map of Europe' and would bring upon Poland the fate of Hungary. Gomułka also persuaded the Catholic Church to urge voters to go to the polls and declare a vote of confidence in the government. In response, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński officially declared his support for the 'no crossing' policy.

Election results

The elections were originally planned for the end of 1956 but due to significant political changes in the government they were delayed until early 1957.

The PZPR won 237 seats out of 459, while the remainder went to satellite parties: the (Democratic Party (SD), United People's Party (ZSL)) and a few independents. The PZPR with 237 won 51.7% of the seats, ZSL with 119 or 120Ref_label|a|a|none had 26.1%, the'independents' with 63 had 14% ('non-party faction', 51, and 'Catholics', 12) and SD with 39 had 8.5%.

According to official data, turnout was 94.14%, which are considered to be somewhat suspect considering heavy snowfalls and unfavorable weather conditions prevailing in Poland at the time, and 98.4% of votes were cast for official candidates.

The new Sejm had its first session on 20 February. Its Senior marshal was Bolesław Drobner; its Sejm marshal was Czesław Wycech. Two by-elections were held after the main election.The first took place on 17 March 1957 at Nowy Sącz because none of the candidates achieved an absolute majority in January. The second took place at Wieluń on 5 May 1957 to replace the incumbent who died on February 5th. These supplementary elections were won by the PZPR and the ZSL respectively. Two other by-elections took place on October 19, 1958 in Myślenice and Oleśnica.

The previous elections in Poland were held in 1952. These were followed by the 1961 elections.

ee also

*Polish legislative election, 1947 - first elections under the communist regime in Poland
*Polish legislative election, 1989 - last elections under the communist regime in Poland


a. Note_label|a|a|none Staar reports there were 459 seats, Roszkowski, 458; Staar gives the extra seat to ZSL. This difference stems from the fact that Staar includes the results of bye-elections in his final results, and Roszkowski doesn't. See "election results" section for details


External links

*pl icon Sławomir Iwaniuk, [http://www.bialorus.pl/index.php?pokaz=bialorusini_w_wyborach_do_sejmu&&Rozdzial=polityka_mn Białorusini w wyborach do Sejmu PRL II kadencji 1957 roku]
*pl icon [http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pos%C5%82owie_II_kadencji_1957-1961 List of members of Polish Sejm from 1957 to 1961] on Polish Wikipedia

Further reading

*Jerzy Drygalski, Jacek Kwasniewski, "No-Choice Elections," Soviet Studies, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr., 1990), pp. 295-315, [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0038-5859(199004)42%3A2%3C295%3ANE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D JSTOR]
*George Sakwa, Martin Crouch, "Sejm Elections in Communist Poland: An Overview and a Reappraisal", British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 403-424, [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0007-1234(197810)8%3A4%3C403%3ASEICPA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-J JSTOR]
*pl icon Paweł Machcewicz, Kampania wyborcza i wybory do Sejmu 20 stycznia 1957 roku, Wydawnictwo Sejmowe, 2000, ISBN: 83-7059-369-0

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