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.

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6 Responses to Analyzing Polish Elections

  1. Andy says:

    Sorry, but your analysis is wrong! I guess you based on propaganda materials from the left media.

    1. ”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.”

    It is funny because leftists always call right-wing parties populists. 🙂 In fact PiS is the first party that realises party’s election program. That’s why “Law and Justice” is still so popular.

    „The second party is the Platforma Obywatelska (PO) – in English the “Civic Platform” – a group espousing support for free market capitalism.”

    In fact PO is left party. PO is even in coalition with the Polish postcommunists (SLD) now (!).

    2. Orange area: in the west, south and north parts you have large areas gained from Germany after WW2 (Pomerania, Lubusz , Lower Silesia and the larger part of Upper Silesia). Before WW2 most of this area was not populated by Poles. It was true German clay for years and after war populated by (mostly) Poles from Kresy (former Russian (mainly) and Austrian partition ). People who live there were resettled from the East. They have NOTHING to do with Germany or German Empire !
    Remember, the former Polish lands east of the Curzon Line were much poorer areas than anywhere else in Poland, even before the war.

    Nowdays many emigrants from Kresy live also in the Greater Poland. In the prewar Polish part of Upper Silesia Silesians are minority and emigrants are majority now (!).
    Again, these people (emigrants) never knew Germany or German Empire !

    They behave in different way that people from rest of country. I think that was caused by cutting of roots by these people. Such a people are always easiest to brainwash.

    3. You wrote: ” 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.”

    No ! No ! No ! It is not true. Lubusz, Masuria and Middle Pomerania are among the poorest regions of Poland and they are very pro-PO.

    • Andy says:

      One addition.

      Large parts of Recovered Territories (Polish “Ziemie Odzyskane”) like Masuria and Central Pomerania were also typical rural areas (in fact, some of the poorest in prewar Germany).

      The Soviet forces engaged in particularly extensive plunder in the former eastern territories of Germany that were to be transferred to Poland. Recovered Territories were looted of anything valuable. Soviets were sending to Russia complete factories (!), power stations, natural resources, train infrastructure, even rails (!). Not to mention about individual looting of Soviet soldiers.

  2. 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?

    • Andy says:

      Remember that Austrian partition (Galicia – Galicja) was the most democratic and liberal. Polish people had even autonomy there ! Today Galicia is a bastion of Polish right-wing.

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