Polish legislative election, 1947

Polish legislative election, 1947

The Polish legislative election, 1947 was held on January 19, 1947 in the People's Republic of Poland. The anti-communist opposition candidates and activists were brutally persecuted and the eventual results were falsified [Wrona, 1999] . According to the official results, the communist-controlled "Democratic Bloc" ("Blok Demokratyczny"), composed of the Polish Workers Party (PPR), Polish Socialist Party (PPS), Popular Party (SL), and Democratic Party (SD) and non-partisan candidates, gained 80.1% votes (390 out of 444 seats). In fact, the "Democratic Bloc" gained only about 50% of the votes [http://www.konstytucje.pl/pub/t024.htm] .

The elections were not free, as opposition candidates were discriminated against and the votes were rigged [Eley, 2002] . Nonetheless, the election gave the Soviet Union and its Polish satellite communist government [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/lo/countries/pl/pl_overview.html] enough legitimacy to claim that Poland was 'free and democratic', and allowing Poland to sign the charter of the United Nations [Schlesinger 2003] . The 1947 elections would mark the beginning of the 'election farce': every single Polish election until the fall of communism in 1989 would be falsified in a similar way. [Wrona, 1999]


By 1946, Poland was mostly under the control of the Soviet Union and its proxies, the Polish communists. In 1946 the communists already tested their strength by falsifying the Polish people's referendum, 1946 ("3xYES Referendum") [Buchanan 2005] and banning all right-wing parties (under the pretext of their pro-Nazi stance). By 1947 the only remaining legal opposition was the Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish People's Party) of Stanisław Mikołajczyk, which refused to join the communist alliance [http://www.bartleby.com/65/po/Poland.html] [http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/longhist6.html] .

Although the Yalta agreement called for free elections in Poland, those held in January 1947 were controlled by the Polish communists [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2875.htm] . The election law, introduced before the elections, allowed the government - which since its estabilishment in 1944 was controlled by the communists - to remove over half a million people from the list of those eligible for voting, under false accusations of collaboration with the Nazis or 'anti-government bandits' (i.e. Armia Krajowa and other Polish resistance movements loyal to the Polish government in exile). Over 80,000 members of the Polish People's Party were arrested under various false charges in the month preceding the election, and around 100 of them were murdered by the Polish Secret Police (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa, UB) [http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/12/biuletyn01_2.html] . 98 opposition parliamentary candidates were also crossed from the registration lists under these accusations. Finally, in some regions - especially those known to be strongholds of the Polish Peasants Party - the entire electoral list of that party was disqualified for various technical and legal reasons. [http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/12/biuletyn01_2.html]

The entire falsification action was organized and closely monitored by specialists from Polish secret police, worked closely with their Soviet counterparts like Aron Pałkin and Siemion Dawydow, both high-ranking officers from the Soviet Ministry for State Security. The Soviet assistance was asked for before the referendum of 1946 by a prominent Polish communist, Bolesław Bierut, head of the provisional Polish parliament (State National Council) [http://www.wprost.pl/ar/?O=88365] . Over 40% of the members of the electoral commissions who were supposed to monitor the voting were recruited by the UB [http://wiadomosci.polska.pl/kalendarz/kalendarium/article.htm?id=79742] .

The elections

The opposition candidates and activists were brutally persecuted until the very election day and the publicized results were falsified [Wrona, 1999] , with the official results known to selected government officials long before the actual elections took place. [http://www.konstytucje.pl/pub/t024.htm] The real results were not known to anyone, as in the areas government control was high enough, some of the ballot boxes were simply destroyed even before being counted [http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/12/biuletyn01_2.html] or exchanged with the boxes filled with prepared votes [http://www.wprost.pl/ar/?O=88365] . Where possible, government officials simply filled in the numbers in the relevant documets as per instructions from the communist officials without bothering to count the real votes. [http://www.wprost.pl/ar/?O=88365] In his report to Stalin, after the 1947 results, Pałkin estimated that the real results (i.e. votes cast) gave communists about 50%. [http://www.konstytucje.pl/pub/t024.htm] The opposition itself estimated that it should have received about 80% of the votes [http://www.wprost.pl/ar/?O=81483&C=57] if the elections were not rigged and the voters were not terrorised.

A TIME Magazine article covering the elections noted in its lead paragaph: "In a spirit of partisan exuberance tempered with terror, Poland approached its first nationwide popular election, ten days hence. By last week most of the combined opposition (Socialist and Polish Peasant Party) candidates had been jailed, and their supporters more or less completely cowed by the secret police, by striking their names from voting lists and by arrest. The Communist-dominated Government ventured to predict an "overwhelming" victory." [http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,855579,00.html]


Many members of opposition parties, including Mikołajczyk - who would have likely become the Prime Minister of Poland if the elections were not rigged [Cockburn, 1997] - saw no hope in further struggle and, fearing for their lives, left the country [Buchanan 2005] . Western governments issued only token protests, if any, which led many anti-Communist Poles to speak of postwar "Western betrayal". In the same year, the new Legislative Sejm voted for the Small Constitution of 1947, and Bolesław Bierut, a Pole who was a Communist and a citizen of the USSR, was elected president of Poland by the parliament. Over the next two years, the Communists would ensure their rise to power by monopolizing political power in Poland under the PZPR [http://www.poloniatoday.com/history13.htm] .

The Communists admitted in the last year of their rule that they had resorted to systematic vote rigging, both in a referendum in June 1946 and in the 1947 parliamentary elections.


Notes and references

* [http://www.elisanet.fi/daglarsson/dokumentit/polval1.htm Results of the 1947 elections]
*Janusz Wrona (ed.), "Kampania wyborcza i wybory do Sejmu Ustawodawczego 19 stycznia 1947" (Elections campaign and the elections to the Legislative Sejm of 19 January 1947), Wydawnictwo Sejmowe, 1999 ISBN 83-7059-322-4;
* Geoff Eley, "Forging Democracy the History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000", Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-504479-7 "In January 1947, manifestly rigged Polish elections gave Communists 80.1% of the vote..." [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0195044797&id=PrWkrL_nYiMC&pg=PA300&lpg=PA300&dq=Polish+elections+1947&sig=jWiRkIUgFhGHOASYrEL6vk8Lfv0 Google Print, p.300]
* Stephen Schlesinger, "Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations", Westview Press, 2003, ISBN 0-8133-3324-5 "On January 19, 1947, the first Polish elections were held. They were widely seen as fraudulent." [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0813333245&id=nV8zLFKglf4C&pg=PA225&lpg=PA225&dq=Polish+elections+1947&sig=wR1vJAX4NXJ2P25QOLP_8nXgXic Google Print, p.225]
* Alexander Cockburn, "The Golden Age Is in Us: Journeys and Encounters, 1987-1994", Verso, 1997, ISBN 0-86091-664-2 "By January [1947...] the fixed Polish election that sent the Peasant Party leader Stanisław Mikołajczyk, who probably should have won, into exile." [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0860916642&id=PJfUHb7mB9UC&pg=PA157&lpg=PA157&dq=Polish+elections+1947&sig=Zc3SCYJHA7NNF7gisPY-ni-ktKM Google Print, p.157]
* Tom Buchanan, "Europe's Troubled Peace, 1945-2000: 1945-2000", Blackwell Publishing, 2005, ISBN 0-631-22162-X, "...the elections of January 1947 [...] were clearly rigged." [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN063122162X&id=gRRj4Vr46IkC&pg=RA1-PA84&lpg=RA1-PA84&dq=Polish+elections+1947&sig=k52neb8NaD8oW7QbHCwcsaiDiXY Google Print, p.84]

External links

*pl icon [http://www.konstytucje.pl/pub/t024.htm Pułkownik Pałkin raportuje: Sfałszowanie wyborów w Polsce nie zbulwersowało opinii Zachodu.]
*pl icon [http://www.ipn.gov.pl/wai.php?serwis=pl&dzial=203&id=4427&search=60366 Sfałszowane wybory – 19 stycznia 1947 roku]
*pl icon [http://www.prezydent.pl/x.node?id=7543016 Jak sfałszowano pierwsze powojenne wybory] , Polityka, 20 stycznia 2007 r.

Further reading

*Michał Skoczylas, "Wybory do Sejmu Ustawodawczego z 19 stycznia 1947 roku w świetle skarg ludności" (Elections to the Legislative Sejm on 19 January 1947 in the light of citizens complains), TRIO, 2003, ISBN 83-88542-43-5
*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,
*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]
*Nikita Petrov, "The Role of the MGB of USSR in the Sovietization of Poland: the Referendum and Sejm Elections in 1946-1947" ( [http://bbb.livejournal.com/1269125.html] )

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