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Poland's Constitutional Breakdown$
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Wojciech Sadurski

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198840503

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198840503.001.0001

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Before the Breakdown: 1989–2015

Before the Breakdown: 1989–2015

(p.35) 2 Before the Breakdown: 1989–2015
Poland's Constitutional Breakdown

Wojciech Sadurski

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses how the recent changes in Polish constitutionalism should be seen against the background of post-communist transformations, after the fall of communism in 1989. It notes that the Round Table agreements of that year were a true constitutional set-up, and were marked by a bargain that enabled a peaceful transition. Bicameralism and semi-presidentialism have their roots in this original compromise. In contrast to many other post-communist states, the chapter shows how the process of constitution-making in Poland was drawn out. Until the Constitution of 1997, the country’s constitutional structure consisted of (1) the constitutional arrangements of the Round Table, (2) the ‘Small Constitution’, and (3) the case law of the reinvigorated Constitutional Tribunal. The process of constitution-making was as important as its outcome, and was marked by multiple compromises. The Constitution of 1997 is then described, with its special emphasis on semi-presidentialism, state-church relations, and a bill of rights containing ‘generous’ socio-economic rights. The first period of Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS)) rule, in 2005–7, was marked by various hostile acts against this constitutional structure, but with no attempts at institutional dismantlement. Between 2005 and 2015, and especially after 2010, a growing political polarization was displayed, consequently weakening the constitutional consensus.

Keywords:   Poland, history, Round Table, post-communist transition, bill of rights, church, constitutional consensus, Constitutional Tribunal, constitutional referendum

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