The governmental system is based on the separation and balance between legislative (the Parliament or National Assembly), executive (the President and the Council of Ministers) and judicial powers (courts and tribunals).
The supreme law of the Republic of Poland is the constitution rewritten in 1997, passed on April 2nd and submitted for ratification by national referendum. The constitution assures freedom of economic activity, any limitation of which should be based on law.
The Parliament is composed of two chambers: the lower house, including the Sejm, which comprises 460 deputies elected for four years through a proportional voting system in a general election. The upper house includes the Senate, which comprises 100 senators, who are elected every four years through a majority voting system. When sitting in a joint session, members of the Sejm and the Senate form the National Assembly, presided by the Marshal of the Sejm. The National Assembly is formed in case of three different situations: to adopt a new Constitution, to receive the oath from a newly elected President, or when an indictment against the President of the Republic is brought to the State Tribunal.
The Senate has the right to initiate legislation and reviews, approve or reject acts passed by the Sejm or to propose amendments to those acts. However, the Senate’s veto may be overruled by an absolute majority vote in the Sejm. It is the Sejm, ultimately, that decides on the final version of any legislative act. The legislative initiative is also granted to the President, the Council of Ministers and to any group of at least 100,000 citizens coming up with a draft law.
On the approval of the Senate, the Sejm also appoints the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (Ombudsman; Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) for a five year term. The Ombudsman has the duty to guard the civil rights and freedoms of Polish citizens and residents and the implementation of the law and of principles of community life and social justice. The Ombudsman remains independent, and is responsible only to the Sejm.
The President is elected via a general election for a five-year term and can spend a maximum of two terms of office. The President is the head of state, the supreme representative of the country in foreign affairs and also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He appoints candidates for the post of Prime Minister and appoints the cabinet according to the Prime Minister’s proposals. He has also the right to dissolve the parliament, if it is unable to form the Government or approve the draft of the State Budget. Apart from the legislative initiative, the President also has the right to veto acts approved by Parliament (although this veto can itself be overruled by the Sejm with a 3/5 majority vote).
The Supreme Audit Office
The Supreme Audit Office (Najwyższa Izba Kontroli – NIK) is an institution that cannot be exactly qualified as a legislative, executive or judicial power. Nevertheless, it is one of the oldest state institutions in Poland. The NIK is entitled to audit all state institutions including the National Bank of Poland, Government and local Government administrative units and other corporate bodies and Non-Governmental Organizations which perform or receive public contracts.
The government in Poland consists of central and local administrations: the Office of the President of the Republic of Poland, the Council of Ministers, with its respective ministries, and the structures comprising the central administration.
The Council of Ministers is the executive body that manages the current state policy, ensuring the execution of the law, approving the draft of the budget, protecting the interests of the State Treasury, and ensuring public order as well as the internal and external security of the state.
Currently, the Council of Ministers consists of a Prime Minister (who is the President of Council of Ministers), three Vice Presidents, four Ministers-Members of the Council of Ministers, and representatives of 17 Ministries.
- Ministry of the Environment
- Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of the Interior and Administration
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy
- Ministry of National Education
- Ministry of National Defence
- Ministry of Digital Affairs
- Ministry of Science and Higher Education
- Ministry of Sport and Tourism
- Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology
- Ministry of Investment and Development
- Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
- Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
- Ministry of Energy
- Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction
- Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Waterways
The administrative division of Poland is based on three levels of administration, i.e. 16 voivodeships/provinces (województwa) headed by provincial voivode (governor/wojewoda), appointed by the Prime Minister, who is the superior of the governmental administration, the supervision body over the territorial self-government units as well as the senior body as per the regulations for administrative proceedings.
The leader of the executive is the voivodeship marshal (marszałek), elected by the regional assembly (sejmik) and coexisting with the voivode. The self-government executes tasks in the following scope: public education, health promotion and protection, environmental protection, modernising the rural areas, public roads, collective transport, land development, culture, social welfare, tourism, counteracting unemployment and activating the local labour market.
The voivodeships are divided into powiats (boroughs/powiaty), which are divided further into communes (gminy).
There are two types of powiats: the basic territorial division unit that comprises the entire areas of the bordering boroughs, a land powiat; or the whole town area, a town with the rights of a powiat.
A commune is the fundamental community and the smallest administrative unit. The scope of its activity comprises the public affairs of local significance, unreserved statutorily for other entities. Predominantly, a commune is responsible for satisfying the primary, concrete needs of its inhabitants. It deals with planning and managing the land, environmental protection, roads, bridges, streets, public transport and supplying the inhabitants with electricity and heating. It also keeps the surroundings tidy, as well as manages and maintains the communal buildings and the public usage facilities.
The local government’s decision-making and supervisory bodies are the councils, operating at all three levels of the local administration. Council members are voted for in general, equal, direct and secret elections. They have the authority to appoint or dismiss local administrative officers including mayors of rural communes (wójt), mayors of towns and cities (burmistrz or for large municipalities prezydent), heads of the powiats (starosta) and, as mentioned before, the marshal.
In accordance with the Polish Constitution, judicial power consists of courts and tribunals, which are independent from the other institutions of power. The system of justice is based on the Supreme Court, the common courts and the administrative and military courts. Judges are independent and cannot be dismissed: they are only subject to the Polish Constitution and regulations.
Polish courts system
The Supreme Court supervises the activities of the common and military courts. It is the highest judicial body, whose rulings are not subject to further review by another court. The Supreme Court deals with cases under particular regulations, provides uniformity and accuracy of interpretation of the law and issues opinions on bills.
The Supreme Administrative Court is the court of last resort in administrative cases e.g. those betweens private citizens (or corporations) and administrative bodies. This court deals with appeals from lower administrative courts. It judges the conformity of local government authority resolutions to the regulations and normative acts of local government administration authorities.
According to the Polish Constitution, the tribunals (The Polish Constitutional Tribunal – Trybuna3 Konstytucyjny and the State Tribunal – Trybunał Stanu) operate outside the structure of the Polish system of justice, although the concept and defi nition of ‘system of justice’ still applies to them.
The Constitution Tribunal is a judicial body established to resolve disputes on the constitutionality of the activities of state institutions: Its main task is to supervise the compliance of statutory law with the Constitution. It adjudicates in compliance with the Constitution of legislation and international agreements (as well as its ratification), on disputes over the powers of central constitutional bodies, and in compliance with the Constitution of the aims and activities of political parties. Its judgements are final.
The State Tribunal is the judicial body, which rules on the constitutional liability of people holding the highest State offices. It is empowered to rule for the removal of individuals from public office; to impose injunctions on individuals against their appointment to senior offices; to revoke an individual’s right to vote and to stand for election; to withdraw previously awarded distinctions and in criminal cases to impose penalties stipulated in the criminal code.
As a member of the European Union, Poland is also subject to certain international organisations with international judicial power. These organisations include:
- The European Union – Court of Justice of the European Communities and Court of
- First Instance,
- The United Nations – International Court of Justice,
- The Council of Europe – European Court of Human Rights,
- The International Criminal Court.
The international system of justice exists to supplement the national courts and makes decisions only when the national justice system is incapable of resolving the dispute at the national level.
Source: Polish Investment and Trade Agnecy, Investor's Guide - Poland: How to do business 2016.