The key Polish political parties as of 2015 constitute an element of a political system that has arisen over the last 25 years as a consequence of the difficult departure from the totalitarian rules underpinning the communist system.
At the beginning phases of the transition period, reforms were carried out amidst political chaos. These included introducing democratic political solutions, reinstating a pluralist party system, and reconstructing political programs (Kurczewska 1995). With each passing year, the remnants of communist solutions were eliminated and replaced with democratic principles and institutions, not fully anchored in the social consciousness of the Polish people. Consequently, the political parties that have emerged since 1989 have undergone many structural and organizational changes.
In the four parliamentary elections that took place from 1991–2001, only three parties ran under the same name each time. Two of these – the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD – Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej) and the Polish People's Party (PSL – Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe) – were stable contenders to power until 2001, exist until this day and are analyzed in this work. The year 2001 was a key turning point in post-communist Polish party system, as it marks the emergence of a new group of parties more stable than those formed in the 1990s. Among these are Civic Platform (PO – Platforma Obywatelska) and Law and Justice (PiS – Prawo i Sprawiedliwość). The last of the parties examined here, Your Movement (TR – Twój Ruch), emerged in 2011. Originally named Palikot's Movement (Ruch Palikota) after its founder Janusz Palikot, the party adopted its current name in 2013. These five parties will be subject of our analysis. We will begin with a treatment of their origins to give context to our subsequent examination of their structures and functioning.
Aside from being among the oldest Polish parties, the SLD and PSL are in the truest sense “post-communist”, as they inherited some organizational and programmatic elements from their communist predecessors (Antoszewski et al. 2003). The SLD emerged in 1999 as a homogenous party, functioning previously as a coalition of several dozen political parties and organizations centered around SdRP, a social democratic party created in 1991 out of the remnants of the former Polish communist party (PZPR – Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza) (Sieklucki 2006).