Democratic Audit of Poland 2014

by Radosław Markowski (Author) Michał Kotnarowski (Author) Michał Wenzel (Author) Marta Żerkowska-Balas (Author)
©2015 Monographs 188 Pages


The book is a study of the state of the Polish democracy and focuses on the years 2012 and 2013. It explores available documents and statistical data, offers a collection of experts' judgments, and analyses public opinion research. Ten domains of democracy are covered, some of them as fundamental as the rule of law, the political community or public administration. The study evaluates contemporary Polish democracy as consolidated and assesses it as reasonably effective, although a number of clear shortcomings call for improvements.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Political community
  • 1.1 Ensuring the rights of individuals who are not citizens of the Republic of Poland
  • 1.1.1 Political participation of foreigners
  • 1.1.2 Situation of foreign citizens on the labour market
  • 1.1.3 Granting protection to refugees
  • 1.1.4 Acquisition of Polish citizenship
  • 1.1.5 Ensuring foreign citizens’ rights – expert opinions
  • 1.2 Ensuring civil rights of minority groups
  • 1.2.1 Legal provisions protecting from exclusion
  • 1.2.2 Implementation of legal mechanisms of respecting the rights of minorities
  • 1.2.3 Acceptance of minorities in public life
  • 1.3 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 2. The rule of law
  • 2.1 International context: general assessment of the rule of law in Poland
  • 2.2 The law-making process
  • 2.2.1 The quality of law
  • 2.3 Independence of the judicial system
  • 2.4 Performance of the judiciary
  • 2.4.1 Poland v. Europe: efficiency of the judiciary
  • 2.4.2 Expert assessment of functioning of the judiciary
  • 2.4.3 Social assessment of the functioning of the judiciary
  • 2.4.4 Access to law
  • 2.5 Legal culture in the society
  • 2.5.1 Respect for the law
  • 2.5.2 Attitude towards public goods and morality
  • 2.6 Civil liberties
  • 2.7 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 3. The media
  • 3.1 Freedom of speech
  • 3.1.1 International context
  • 3.1.2 Freedom of speech according to DAP experts
  • 3.2 The quality of information on the public sphere
  • 3.2.1 International context
  • 3.2.2 Assessment of radio and television in the surveys conducted on a representative sample of the population
  • 3.2.3 DAP expert opinions on the quality of information
  • 3.3 Ownership of the media
  • 3.4 Professionalization of journalism and accountability of the media
  • 3.5 Local press
  • 3.6 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 4. Corruption
  • 4.1 Corrupt behaviour on the central and local levels
  • 4.1.1 Legal environment
  • 4.1.2 Corruption cases
  • 4.2 Transparency of relations between politics and the economy
  • 4.2.1 Legal conditions
  • 4.2.2 Cases of unfair lobbying
  • 4.3 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 5. Administration
  • 5.1 Monopoly on using violence (existence of non-state power entities-organized crime groups, informal local networks)
  • 5.2 Ability to collect taxes
  • 5.2.1 Tax Office Effectiveness
  • 5.2.2 Gray economy
  • 5.3 Rationality and neutrality of the administration apparatus (differences in the treatment of various types of citizens)
  • 5.4 Effectiveness of administration (the level of executing tasks by the administration)
  • 5.5 Quality of public office services
  • 5.6 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 6. Democracy in the society
  • 6.1 Understanding democracy
  • 6.1.1 Social definition of democracy
  • 6.2 Legitimization of the political system
  • 6.2.1 Acceptance of the political system
  • 6.2.2 Assessment of the performance of democracy
  • 6.2.3 Confidence in democratic institutions
  • 6.3 Democracy at the local level
  • 6.3.1 Readiness to participate in decision-making process (on the local level).
  • 6.3.2 Subjective influence on the local level
  • 6.3.3 Confidence in local authorities
  • 6.4 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 7. Political process
  • 7.1 Democratic elections as an instrument for selecting power
  • 7.1.1 An analysis of Polish electoral law
  • 7.1.2 Autonomy of the institutions organizing elections
  • 7.1.3 Areas outside elected institutions’ control.
  • 7.1.4 An assessment of turnover in government
  • 7.2 Voting rights
  • 7.2.1 Conditions for vote casting and barriers in voting
  • 7.2.2 Ensuring conditions for free elections
  • 7.2.3 Electoral law abuses
  • 7.3 Running for Office
  • 7.3.1 Running for office: legal mechanisms
  • 7.3.2 Candidate registration procedures
  • 7.3.3 Candidate access to the electorate
  • 7.3.4 Candidate access to the media
  • 7.3.5 Neutrality of the public media in electoral campaigns
  • 7.4 Equality of the vote
  • 7.4.1 Equality of the vote on the level of electoral law
  • 7.4.2 Execution of the principle of the equality of the vote in practice
  • 7.5 Parliament structure versus social structure
  • 7.5.1 An analysis of legal procedures ensuring the presence of disadvantaged groups in the Parliament
  • 7.5.2 Presence of disadvantaged groups on electoral lists
  • 7.5.3 Presence of disadvantaged groups in the Parliament
  • 7.6 Participation and legitimacy of the authorities
  • 7.6.1 Electoral turnout on the national and local level
  • 7.6.2 Acceptance of election results
  • 7.6.3 Citizens’ interest in public activity on the local level
  • 7.7 Tripartite Commission
  • 7.7.1 Tripartite Commission activities
  • 7.8 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 8. Party system
  • 8.1 Freedom of operation of political parties
  • 8.1.1 Legal procedures concerning the operation of political parties
  • 8.1.2 Characteristics of Polish political parties
  • 8.1.3 Limitations to the freedom of operation of political parties
  • 8.2 Effectiveness of the party system
  • 8.2.1 The ability of political parties to maintain a stable government coalition
  • 8.2.2 Frequency of government changes in the period between elections
  • 8.3 Parties as organizations
  • 8.3.1 Internal procedures of parties
  • 8.4 Financing political parties
  • 8.4.1 Legal mechanisms
  • 8.4.2 Law implementation
  • 8.5 Parties in the Parliament
  • 8.5.1 The position and activity of opposition parties in the parliament
  • 8.5.2 The scope for applying party discipline in the parliament
  • 8.6 Elections and the Polish party system: constitutive features
  • 8.6.1 The elections of 2011
  • 8.6.2 The “shape” and dynamics of the party system
  • 8.6.3 Relations between electorates
  • 8.7 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 9. Public responsibility and accountability of politicians
  • 9.1 Scope and effectiveness of control and holding the executive accountable by the legislature
  • 9.1.1 Legal mechanisms regulating the scope of government control by the parliament
  • 9.1.2 Parliamentary questions, interpellations, requests and the quality of responses
  • 9.1.3 Performance of parliamentary commissions
  • 9.1.4 Scope and effectiveness of executive accountability at the local level
  • 9.2 Control of public expenditure: central and local levels
  • 9.2.1 Activity-Based Budget– central and local levels
  • 9.3 Access to public information
  • 9.3.1 Legal mechanisms regulating access to public information
  • 9.3.2 Effectiveness of access to public information
  • 9.4 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • 10. Responsiveness of politicians
  • 10.1 Procedures of public consultation
  • 10.2 Availability of MPs, councillors, town and city mayors for contact with citizens
  • 10.2.1 Legal framework of contacts between MPs and citizens
  • 10.2.2 Contact channels between MPs and citizens
  • 10.2.3 Contact channels of local government with citizens
  • 10.3 Citizen assessment of authority responsiveness
  • 10.4 Participatory budgets
  • 10.5 Right to petition
  • 10.6 Summary
  • Bibliography
  • Summary

← 10 | 11 → Introduction

Democratic audits in the world have an established, if not a very long tradition. They were created not so much as scientific studies, but rather as policy analysis covering the issues of macro-democracy both in its normative visions and in its performance, including practical diagnosis of its dysfunctions.

Particular national traditions of audits differ greatly; in some the performance of democracy is assessed in details, while in others it is evaluated rather generally. Some believe that the quality of democracy cannot be discussed without precisely defining what model of democracy is assumed, while others ignore this issue altogether. Some models were created when concerned citizens and social science professionals noticed grave deficiencies in the functioning of democracy, or were concerned about its future, while others were the outcome of scholarly reflection. Most are the practical consequence of the belief that a collective and public discussion of issues concerning political order is a necessary condition for its success.

The best known and at the same time chronologically the first was the Democratic Audit of the United Kingdom1. Its first edition was released at the beginning of the 1990s. The authors of the document reflect on its essence in the following words: “a democratic audit or an analytical democracy assessment, as it is also known, is a comprehensive and systematic assessment of a country’s political life from the viewpoint of the key principles such as citizen control over the decision-making process and political equality in the exercise of that control.”

It is therefore a sort of a test of the “health” of a country’s democracy. Almost the same might be said about the general idea and the chief aim of this publication, the first Democratic Audit of Poland (DAP). However, due to the fact that this is the first edition of a planned series, it is characterized by some particularities described later.

The Australian Democracy Audit is, on the other hand, more “interactive” and publication-oriented, being released both in the form of books ← 11 | 12 → and magazine articles. It is also reactive, as it concurrently addresses legislation changes or current political decisions.

Reflection on the quality of democracy in the Netherlands has a long and complex history, but the Dutch audit truly gained in speed in 2002, when the political shooting star Pim Fortuyn revolutionized the Dutch political scene and was murdered soon afterwards. His death resulted in the conclusion made both by politicians of that country and academics that the performance of the Dutch democracy is far from ideal. Therefore, they decided to initiate a reflection over the state of the Dutch democracy as one of the tools to improve its condition.

These examples of three democracy audits and their genesis aim at pointing at the diverse reasons for their creation. Our motivations to start a democratic audit in Poland are closest to the British case.

Currently, in many countries democracy audits significantly contribute to citizens’ self-reflection, and publicizing their findings becomes a media event. For some time now, appreciating the importance of those projects, the Stockholm Institute IDEA has decided to coordinate those dispersed projects of particular countries, with the aim to encourage some comparability. The methodological assistance is of great significance and the IDEA Institute offers it to the teams in need.

At the same time, let us note that, together with the global spread of democracy as a system of governance and with the increasing quest for democracy, a range of institutions systematically dealing with its quality assessments emerged, alongside such long-standing projects as Freedom House or Polity. For instance, there are interesting initiatives by the Bertelsmann Foundation, such as Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) or Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI). They focus on numerous aspects of democracy, the state and the market economy relevant in democratizing countries, i.e. on the attributes we do not usually analyse in traditional stable democracies of Western Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world. Another new and interesting initiative is the World Justice Forum, which publishes systematic global assessment of the state performance, known as Rule of Law Index. It assesses selected aspects of the operation of the state and the law, elections, as well as the fundamental civil and political rights. In 2012, an extremely important project complementary towards the previous ones was initiated and named Varieties of Democracy (VoD). After many years ← 12 | 13 → of criticism of the abovementioned initiatives for assuming a “linear”, or one dimensional, model of democracy, a study of various types and models of democracy was launched.

Finally, in this necessarily short description of national traditions of “democracy audits” it must be stressed that these projects are comparative in substance, but comparative in terms of time rather than space. New initiatives and actions of IDEA will be moving towards comparability of these projects on the international level. We believe these activities to be timely and necessary, even though we also think that such projects should always be nationally specific. In other words, they should be case studies instead of classic comparative studies. The current edition of the Democratic Audit of Poland (DAP) is the first one and, in our intention, a “pilot” study, since it also tests the limits of availability of relevant data on Polish institutions for scientists and experts willing to evaluate the state of democracy in contemporary Poland. It brings innovative approach to the interpretation of both existing data and mass studies of the Polish society. Last but not least, this DAP is a “pilot” edition since it covers quite a wide range of issues. We realise that not all aspects we cover are considered by theories of democracy as its constitutive elements. Public administration is an example of such a borderline sphere, even though among well-known academics we find those willing to consider, as they themselves call it, “effective bureaucracy” as one of the five spheres of democracy (Linz, Stepan 1996).

In order to defend the broad approach to the assessment of the Polish democracy, we should reiterate that in the first pilot version of our audit we wanted to look at democracy itself, as well as the phenomena and spheres of life directly connected with it, from as broad a perspective as possible. We call it a “pilot” study because we are open for a discussion and encourage critical evaluation of our conclusions. The subsequent versions of this document: DAP 2016, DAP 2018 and so on will undoubtedly be more limited, but at the same time more standardised. Ultimately, the Democratic Audit of Poland is envisaged as a longitudinal project. It will be a repeated analysis of the state of Polish democracy in subsequent years.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (August)
political community political process Quality of democracy quality of democracy
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 188 pp., 68 graphs

Biographical notes

Radosław Markowski (Author) Michał Kotnarowski (Author) Michał Wenzel (Author) Marta Żerkowska-Balas (Author)

Radosław Markowski is Head of the Comparative Politics Department at the Polish Academy of Sciences and Chair of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities. Michał Kotnarowski is Researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw). Michał Wenzel is Researcher at the Center for the Study of Democracy (Warsaw). Marta Żerkowska-Balas is Researcher at the Center for the Study of Democracy (Warsaw).


Title: Democratic Audit of Poland 2014
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190 pages