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100th Anniversary of the March Constitution

On 17 March 1921, several minutes before 5 pm, the Marshal of the Sejm Wojciech Trąmpczyński uttered the significant words: “I am asking those Members who support the constitutional law, as it was passed in the third reading, to stand up.” Next without counting the votes, he announced: “The overwhelming majority is in favour of the bill. The bill has been passed in the third reading.” Applause rang out around the room. Thus was passed the first modern basic law – a document determining the functioning of the reborn Republic of Poland.

The adoption of the constitution was the result of several years of activity, expert discussions and parliamentary debate. The work was initiated by the government of Prime Minister Jędrzej Moraczewski as early as 1918. In January 1919 the Constitutional Bureau attached to the President of the Council of Ministers was established and the so-called Questionnaire for the assessment of draft constitutions was appointed. This commission included not only politicians, but also specialists in constitutional law. From 19 February to 12 March 1919 the “Questionnaire” held 17 meetings. The Constitutional Committee operated in parallel in the Legislative Sejm and was chaired by Władysław Seyda, and subsequently by Maciej Rataj and Edward Dubanowicz.

It held 106 meetings. From 8 July 1920 to 17 March 1921, the pillars of political system of the Republic of Poland, e.g. the issue of the number of parliamentary chambers, were discussed at the plenary sessions of the Sejm. The adoption of the constitution was not only the result of compromise between the parliamentary parties, but also confirmed the respect for the ideals of representative democracy, the rule of law and freedom of the individual. The Constitution introduced an egalitarian political system – a republic with a parliamentary-cabinet system of government; it conferred supreme power on the nation, which exercised it through organs corresponding to Montesquieu’s concept of the tripartite separation of powers.

Błażej Popławski