Democracy Digest: The Dust Settles After Polish Election

Speaker's corner

The opposition held its breath until the last minute on Tuesday evening to see whether its candidate, Tomasz Grodzki, would get the speaker seat in the Senate.

Before last month's parliamentary election, Poland's main democratic opposition forces — the Civic Coalition (KO), the left-wing Lewica alliance and the agrarian Polish People's Party  — chose not to field candidates against each other in the Senate race.

The strategy paid off. The opposition won 48 seats, PiS also got 48, and three of the four independents elected supported the opposition, giving them control of the house. 

Attempts by the national-conservative PiS to attract independents to its side made headlines in the run-up to Tuesday's vote, and the election of Grodzki (KO) was by no means guaranteed. In the end, Grodzki beat the PiS candidate thanks to the votes of three independents (the fourth abstained). 

Grodzki said the Senate would do more than simply slow down legislation passed by the Sejm, Poland's more powerful lower house.

"The Senate only has to return to its role: instead of fast legislation, create good legislation; instead of approving laws in 24 hours and then fixing them several times, respect the rules of the Senate and create proper laws," he said in a speech after the vote. 

With Grodzki as speaker, and given the current balance of power between PiS and the opposition, analysts say it will no longer be possible for the governing party to carry out the kind of conveyor-belt lawmaking seen in its first term.

But whether the opposition can actually stop PiS from passing controversial legislation may depend more on the result of presidential elections next year. In Poland, the president can veto legislation, with three-fifths...

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