Topics of coins

30th Anniversary of the First Free Parliamentary Election

Poland was the last Central European country to hold a free parliamentary election after the fall of communist governments. This was due to the evolutionary nature of the changes in the political system initiated by the Round Table talks and then to the policy pursued by the government headed by Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who decided to hold democratic local government elections in the first place (May 1990). And later, the elite of the “Solidarity” movement, embroiled in an increasingly fierce political dispute, decided to call a general presidential election. Its winner, Lech Wałęsa, engaged in a months-long dispute with the majority of the Contract Sejm over the structure of the electoral law. It all led to the free parliamentary election taking place as late as 27 October 1991.

Voter turnout at the election was only 43.2%, which was due to the discontent among many Polish citizens with the direction of the political and economic changes launched in 1989. Since the proportional representation electoral system did not provide for an electoral threshold, the seats in the Sejm were divided amongst representatives of as many as 24 parties. Most of the seats (barely 62) were gained by the Democratic Union (Unia Demokratyczna). The degree of political fragmentation at the election is also well illustrated by the fact that 14 parties won fewer than 10 seats, with 7 of the parties gaining just 1 seat each.

The leader of the Christian National Union (Zjednoczenie Chrześcijańsko-Narodowe) Prof. Wiesław Chrzanowski was elected Speaker of the Sejm. In December 1991, the Sejm of the first term appointed a government headed by Jan Olszewski. After its fall – accelerated by the lustration crisis (4 June 1992) and followed by Waldemar Pawlak’s unsuccessful mission to form a cabinet – the government of Hanna Suchocka was formed in July 1992. The vote of no confidence in the latter, taken in May 1993, prompted President Wałęsa to dissolve the parliament and call an early election. The most significant achievement of the Sejm of the first term was the adoption of the so-called Small Constitution, which was ratified on 17 October 1992.

The obverse of the coin carries a portrait of Jan Olszewski, Prime Minister in the years 1991–1992, a fragment of the seating chart for the Sejm meeting hall, and a stylised ballot box.

The reverse features a fragment of the complex of the Sejm buildings, with a centrally placed building that houses the Sejm meeting halls, and a fragment of the Senate building. In the foreground, a stylised fragment of a ballot paper featuring the eagle of the National Electoral Commission is placed.

Antoni Dudek