Poland, officially known as the Republic of Poland, is a country situated in Central Europe which is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, with Warsaw the capital and largest city. Poland covers 120,733 square miles with a population of approximately 38.5 million people. It is the sixth most populous state of the European Union.
Poland is considered to be a developed market, as well as a regional power, with a high-income economy, very high standards of living, life quality, education, safety, and economic freedom. It maintains a very dynamic economy which is the eighth largest in the European Union, and provides free university education, state-funded social security and a universal health care system for its population. In addition, Poland has 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (14 cultural); it is a member state of the European Union, the Schengen Area, the United Nations, the OCED, NATO, the Three Seas Initiative, and the Visegrád Group.
The Legislative Branch
The Polish Parliament is split into two chambers: the lower chamber (the Sejm) has 460 members who are elected for a four-year term by proportional representation in multi-seat constituencies, with a 5% threshold (8% for coalitions); the Senate (known as the Senat) is composed of 100 members who are each elected for a four-year term using the voting system ‘one-round first-past-the-post’.
When in joint session, the Sejm and Senat make up the National Assembly (Zgromadzenie Narodowe, in Polish). The National Assembly comes together on just three occasions: when a new president takes the oath of office, when an indictment is levelled against the President to the Tribunal of State, and during a declaration of a President's permanent incapacity to continue in his post due to poor health (only the first reason for forming the National Assembly has ever happened). All elections are supervised by the National Electoral Commission (Państwowa Komisja Wyborcza, in Polish), known as the National Electoral Office (Polish: Krajowe Biuro Wyborcze).
The Executive Branch
The President of Poland is elected to serve in terms. He is effectively the head of state, supreme commander of the Armed Forces, and supreme representative of Poland. The President can veto certain legislation, a process which can be overridden by a three-fifths majority vote in the National Assembly. The President is responsible for ratifying and renouncing international agreements. He can also appoint and recall the plenipotentiary representatives of Poland, and works alongside the Prime Minister and the appropriate ministers in respect to foreign policy. Additionally, in his role as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, he appoints the Chief of the General Staff and commanders of the Armed Forces.
The President also has the power to convene the Cabinet Council. The President’s official acts are made valid by the signature of the Prime Minister, though this is not the case in terms of nominating and appointing the Prime Minister, appointing judges, introducing new legislation, shortening the office term of the Sejm, requesting the appointment of the President of the National Bank of Poland, announcing a nationwide referendum, signing or refusing to sign a new bill, convening the Cabinet Council, appointing or dismissing high-ranking members in government, or pardoning individuals.
The process for selecting the Council of Ministers runs as follows: the Prime Minister proposes, the President appoints, and the Sejm approves the council. The President himself is elected by popular vote to serve a five-year term, while the Prime minister and any Deputy Prime Ministers are appointed by the President before being confirmed by the Sejm. The Council of Ministers is responsible to the Prime Minister and the Sejm, not the President.
The Judicial Branch
The judicial branch of the Polish government is crucial for decision-making. It is composed of several major institutions, including the Supreme Court (Polish: Sąd Najwyższy), the Supreme Administrative Court (Polish: Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny), the Constitutional Tribunal (Polish: Trybunał Konstytucyjny), and the State Tribunal (Polish: Trybunał Stanu). Following approval from the Senat, the Sejm selects the ombudsman (or the Commissioner) for Civil Rights Protection (Polish: Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich), who serves a five-year term. The ombudsman is responsible for guarding the observance and implementation of Polish citizens’ and residents’ rights and liberties, as well as the law and principles of community life in the country.