- Democratic Party – demokraci.pl
party_name = Partia Demokratyczna – demokraci.pl
colorcode = #FFA000
7 may 2005
headquarters = ul. Marszałkowska 77/79, 00-683
international = none,
European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
website = [http://www.demokraci.pl www.demokraci.pl]
The Democratic Party ("Partia Demokratyczna – demokraci.pl") is a social liberal party in
Poland, publicly announced on February 28and formally established on May 9, 2005as an "enlargement" of the Freedom Union ("Unia Wolności"), which it legally succeeds.
The Democratic Party was formed on the initiative of UW chairman
Władysław Frasyniuk, together with the economist Jerzy Hausner, until recently a member of the governing post-communist Democratic Left Alliance(SLD), and prominent former UW member Tadeusz Mazowiecki. It was since strongly supported, but thus far not yet officially joined, by then prime minister Marek Belkaand centrist members of the Democratic Left Alliance. Although it attracted considerable media attention and support from many Polish intellectuals, it received only 2.5% of the vote (and no seats in parliament) in the Polish parliamentary election in October, 2005.
The core of the Democratic Party is made up by the members of the Freedom Union ("Unia Wolności", UW), which had so far been the most important liberal group in the Polish political landscape. Since its inception in 1994, the UW had to cope with internal frictions between various factions: Free market liberals (such as
Leszek Balcerowicz), those proposing a liberal economic agenda in a more conservative, bourgeois guise (such as Donald Tusk), more progressive social liberals such as Jacek Kuroń, and intellectual former civil rightsactivists such as Bronisław Geremekor Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who also has a strong background in liberal Catholicism and leans towards Christian democracy.
In 2001, these frictions - combined with the prospect of a devastating defeat in the upcoming election - led to an exodus of conservative and market-liberal members around Tusk who joined former members of the UW's senior coalition partner, the conservative AWS, to form the new
Citizens' Platform(PO) party. In the 2001 general elections, the Freedom Union received only 3.1% and thus failed to cross the 5% threshold required to gain entry to Parliament. With Władysław Frasyniukreplacing Geremek as chairman, the Freedom Union continued to exist as a social liberal party, but lost much of its relevance in Polish politics. It consistently enjoys the support of approximately 3% of voters. However, probably due to low voter turnout, the party managed to cross the required 5% threshold in the 2004 European Parliament elections, receiving 7% of votes and 4 out of 54 seats reserved for Poland in the European Parliamentas part of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, of which it is a member.
February 29, 2005, Frasyniuk came out with the initiative to merge the UW into a new liberal party to be called "the Democrats", which he presented with Mazowiecki and Jerzy Hausner. Mazowiecki had left the UW in November 2002 after it had left the conservative-Christian democrat European People's Partyin favour of the liberal European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, and entered coalitions with the social democratic Alliance of the Democratic Left(SLD) and the populist peasant Self-Defence party on the local level. Hausner, on the other hand, is an economist with a post-communist background. As minister of economic affairs and employment in the governments of Leszek Millerand Marek Belka, he conceived the so-called Hausner Plan ("Plan Hausnera"), a programme for liberal reform concerning state-owned business, public administration, and social security. After his reform met with persistent opposition, he left the SLD in a much debated move on 7 Februaryand resigned from office on March 30, 2005.
From the beginning, Frasyniuk, Hausner and Mazowiecki appealed to prime minister Marek Belka to join the party. Belka, another former SLD member, had left the party in the early 1990s, but joined Leszek Miller's government as a non-party minister of economic affairs in 2001 before resigning the following year. After an interlude as economic director in the interim coalition administration of
Iraqin 2003, Belka returned to Poland to become non-party head of an SLD minority government in 2004.
The involvement of Hausner and Belka as prominent post-communists marks a first in Polish politics: for the first time, a political party is created by members of the former communist government and former opposition members. Also, while the UW was a somewhat elitist party appealing mostly to educated and affluent urban voters, the PD is trying to establish itself as a popular party with a broad appeal, which caters for social liberals (Frasyniuk), pragmatic market liberals (Hausner) and centrist Christian democrats (Mazowiecki).
27 May, 2005, the party claims to have 13,000+ members, out of which 8,000 were members of the Freedom Union. It defines itself as, "above all, a group of young people not previously involved in politics, which at the same time is drawing on the best traditions of the liberal-democrat milieu around the Freedom Union" [http://demokraci.pl/index.php?do=standard&navi=0001,0007] . Despite this statement the party is made of several former politicians, who had run Poland before, as well as including ex-members of SLD who left the party when it faced a corruption crisis.
A manifesto entitled "Development through Democracy" issued by the party in February 2005 was signed by a broad range of Polish intellectuals and artists, including Paweł Huelle (writer),
Marek Edelman(physician, last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Rising), Agnieszka Holland(director), Marek Kondrat(actor), Kazimierz Kutz(director), Jan Miodek(linguist), Daniel Olbrychski(actor), Jerzy Pilch(writer), Henryk Samsonowicz(historian), Jerzy Szacki(sociologist). Lech Wałęsa's son Jarosław Wałęsaalso signed the manifesto.
Key proposals of the party include:
*Support for the
European constitutionin the referendum in October 2005
*Tax cuts, introduction of an 18%
flat taxon incomes
*Reduction of non-wage labour costs, tax remissions for business starters
*Creation of new jobs, e.g. through a first-year exemption from social security contributions for graduate entrants
*Appointment of an ombudsman to represent entrepreneurs damnified by fiscal or other authorities
*Increased spending on education
*Studentship funds for rural youth
*Compulsory education starting at age 6 (presently 7), popularisation of instruction in two foreign languages at primary school level
*Improvement and nationwide standardisation of health services
*Establishment of a public hospital network not subject to privatisation
*Reduction in telecommunication costs to facilitate internet access
*Opposition to abortion and gay marriage
The Freedom Union's transformation into the Democratic Party has not significantly increased voter support for the liberals, which since autumn 2004 has been oscillating between 3% and 6%. In June 2005 it was at 4% [http://www.cbos.pl/SPISKOM.POL/2005/K_103_05.PDF] and has since deteriorated; in the parliamentary elections of September 2005, it reached 2.5%, failing to overcome the
election thresholdof 5%. Because the party received less than 3%, it does not receive refunds of its campaign costs. It also lacks significant presence in the media as a consequence of its poor election result, which has further diminished its appeal. In December 2005, the party merely reached 1% of support in a poll [http://www.e-polityka.pl/article/152943_Nowy_sondaz_CBOS.htm] . As a result, some political observers question the party's ability to further continue in its present shape.
The Democratic Party has attracted criticism from other former oppositionists from communist times, who criticise that the party accepts former members of the post-communist SLD, and strongly opposes the large-scale vetting of officials and politicians (see
Bronisław Wildstein) aimed at eliminating former state agents from political life. Also, the party's formal electoral and later parliamentary coalition with SLD, Left and Democrats, which lasted from 2006 until 2008, has been seen as disloyalty of Solidarity's ideals by many.
Liberalism in Poland
Contributions to liberal theory
List of liberal parties
* [http://www.demokraci.pl/ Official website]
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