Analyzing Polish Elections

The country Poland is comprised of two main political parties; the first is Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS) – “Law and Justice” in English. This party is a populist group which runs upon anti-corruption and anti-Communist credentials. The second party is the Platforma Obywatelska (PO) – in English the “Civic Platform” – a group espousing support for free market capitalism.

On October 2007, Poland held parliamentary elections between the two parties. Most of the Western media backed the Civic Platform (PO), disliking the unpredictability of the Kaczyński twins (leaders of Law and Justice). Here is a map of the results:

As it turns out, the Civic Platform (PO) won the election, taking 41.5% of the vote. Law and Justice polled 32.1%, with the rest of the vote going to third parties.

A clear regional split is apparent in these results. Poland’s southeast – with the exception of Warsaw – generally voted for Law and Justice (PiS). On the other hand, support for the Civic Platform (PO) took a sickle-like shape along Poland’s northern and western borders.

These patterns are not random. Take a look at pre-WWI Imperial Germany superimposed upon this map:

As the map above indicates, there is a powerful correlation between the borders of Imperial Germany and support for the free-market, pro-Western Civic Platform (PO) Party. In contrast, areas that voted strongest for Law and Justice (PiS) used to belong to the Austrian-Hungarian and Russian empires.

An exact map of Poland’s pre-WWI boundaries looks as so:

These voting patterns have very little to do with any actual German presence in pro-Civic Platform regions. Few Germans live in the regions that used to belong to Imperial Germany; after WWII the process of ethnic cleansing effectively expelled them all from modern-day Poland.

The reason, rather, involves economics. The German Empire was far more economically developed than the Russian and Austria-Hungarian empires. This legacy is still present today, as Poland’s 2007 parliamentary elections showed quite starkly.

An interesting instance of Poland’s “German” divide occurred during the 1989 parliamentary elections. One may recognize this date: it was the year that communism fell in Poland. In these elections the Polish communists actually competed directly with the anti-communist Solidarity movement.

Here are the results:

Solidarity, of course, won in a landslide victory – which is why communism fell in Poland. Yet even in these elections one can make out the regional, east-west divide in Poland. Surprisingly, the more “Western” and economically developed regions actually gave stronger support to the Communists.

All in all, Poland’s electoral divide provides a powerful example of how long-past history can influence even the most modern events. Whatever the political parties of Poland’s future, and whatever their political positions, one can be fairly sure that Polish elections will continue to replicate the boundaries of pre-WWI Germany for a long, long time.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Foreign Elections and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Analyzing Polish Elections

  1. Joe from NC says:

    I must say, I’m enjoying these analyses of Eastern European Politics.
    It’s interesting how the partitions of Poland more than 200 years ago still affect that country’s politics. My family is part Polish and some of my relatives came from the German part of Poland and others came from the Austrian part of Poland. Neither family was rich, but I know the ones from the German empire were better off than the ones from the Austrian Empire.

    Anyway, I hope you do this with more European countries

    • inoljt says:

      Yep, it’s quite fascinating how such old history can still affect present day electoral patterns. In the U.S. there’s ton of that, especially with how the South votes electorally.

      I’d actually be quite interested in seeing how the Soviet Union would have voted in a free and fair election. Or what divides China would show today in a fair and free election.

    • Anonymous says:

      When was WWI over 200 years ago?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s