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Polish legislative elections, 1947

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Title: Polish legislative elections, 1947  
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Subject: Władysław Gomułka, People's Republic of Poland, Stanisław Mikołajczyk, History of Poland (1945–89), State National Council, Provisional Government of National Unity
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Polish legislative elections, 1947

Polish legislative election, 1947
1938 ←
January 17, 1947 (1947-01-17)
→ 1952

All 444 seats in the Sejm
  Majority party Minority party Third party
Leader Bolesław Bierut Stanisław Mikołajczyk Tadeusz Michejda
Leader since December 22, 1948 January 21, 1946 1946
Last election Does not exist Does not exist 0
Seats won 394 28 12
Seat change Increase 394 Increase 28 Increase 12
Popular vote 9,003,682 1,154,847 530,979
Percentage 80.1% 10.3% 4.7%

  Fourth party
Leader Bronisław Drzewiecki
Leader since 1947
Last election Does not exist
Seats won 7
Seat change Increase 7
Popular vote 397,754
Percentage 3,5%

Premier before election

Edward Osóbka-Morawski


Józef Cyrankiewicz

Parliamentary elections were held in Poland on 19 January 1947,[1] the first since World War II. According to the official results, the Democratic Bloc (Blok Demokratyczny), dominated by the communist Polish Workers Party (PPR) and also including the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), People's Party (SL), Democratic Party (SD) and non-partisan candidates, gained 80.1% of the vote and 394 of the 444 seats. The largest opposition party, the Polish People's Party, was officially credited with 28 seats. However, the elections were won using intimidation and violence; all non-communist and/or anti-communist opposition candidates and activists were persecuted by the Volunteer Reserve Militia (ORMO) with almost 100,000 functionaries armed with guns, deployed across the country in order to ensure a communist victory.[2] The results were falsified on a massive scale. According to one of the Soviet officials who helped orchestrate the fraud, the Democratic Bloc had actually won about 50% of the votes.[3] [4] In turn, the opposition claimed that it would have won a decisive victory had the election been conducted fairly.[5]

The election gave the Soviets and the communist-dominated Polish satellite government[6] enough legitimacy to claim that Poland was 'free and democratic', and allowing Poland to sign the charter of the United Nations.[7]


By 1946, Poland was mostly under the control of the Soviet Union and its proxies, the PPR. In 1946 the communists already tested their strength by falsifying the Polish people's referendum, 1946 ("3xYES Referendum") [8] and banning all right-wing parties (under the pretext of their pro-Nazi stance). By 1947 the only remaining legal opposition was the Polish People's Party of Stanisław Mikołajczyk, which refused to join the communist alliance.[9][10]

Although the Yalta agreement called for free elections in Poland, the January 1947 elections held under the supervision of the PPR were not free.[11] The election law, introduced before the elections, allowed the government - which since its establishment in 1944 by the Polish Committee of National Liberation had been dominated by the Communists - to remove over half a million people from the electoral rolls, under false accusations of collaboration with the Nazis or 'anti-government bandits' (i.e., Armia Krajowa and other Polish resistance movements loyal to the Polish government in exile). Over 80,000 members of the Polish People's Party were arrested under various false charges in the month preceding the election, and around 100 of them were murdered by the Polish Secret Police (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa, UB).[12] 98 opposition parliamentary candidates were also crossed from the registration lists under these accusations. In some regions the government disqualified the entire People's Party list under various technical and legal pretenses, most commonly in regions known to be People's Party strongholds.[12]

The electoral fraud was organized and closely monitored by UB specialists, who worked closely with their Soviet counterparts like Aron Pałkin and Siemion Dawydow, both high-ranking officers from the Soviet MGB. Bolesław Bierut, head of the provisional Polish parliament (State National Council) and acting president, asked for Soviet assistance in the election.[13] Over 40% of the members of the electoral commissions who were supposed to monitor the voting were recruited by the UB.[14]


Opposition candidates and activists were persecuted until election day; only the PPR and its allies were allowed to campaign unhindered. The publicized results were falsified,[15] with the official results known to selected government officials long before the actual elections took place and any votes were counted.[3] The real results were not known to anyone. In areas where the government had sufficient control, some of the ballot boxes were simply destroyed without being counted,[12] or exchanged with boxes filled with prepared votes.[13] Where possible, government officials simply filled in the numbers in the relevant documents as per instructions from Soviet and PPR officials without bothering to count the real votes.[13] In his report to Joseph Stalin, after the 1947 results, Pałkin estimated that the real results (i.e. votes cast) gave the Democratic Bloc about 50% of the vote.[3] The opposition itself estimated that it would have received about 80% of the votes,[5] had the elections been free and fair.

A Time Magazine article covering the elections noted in its lead paragaph: "In a spirit of partisan exuberance tempered with terror, Poland approached its first nationwide popular election, ten days hence. By last week most of the combined opposition (Socialist and Polish Peasant Party) candidates had been jailed, and their supporters more or less completely cowed by the secret police, by striking their names from voting lists and by arrest. The Communist-dominated Government ventured to predict an "overwhelming" victory."[16]


Party Votes % Seats
Democratic Bloc 9,003,682 80.1 394
Polish People's Party 1,154,847 10.3 28
Labor Party 530,979 4.7 12
Polish People's Party "Nowe Wyzwolenie" 397,754 3.5 7
Local lists 157,611 1.4 3
Invalid/blank votes 96,610
Total 11,341,483 100 444
Registered voters/turnout 12,701,058 89.3
Source: Nohlen & Stöver


Many members of opposition parties, including Mikołajczyk - who would have likely become the Prime Minister of Poland had the election been honest [17] - saw no hope in further struggle and, fearing for their lives, left the country.[8] Western governments issued only token protests, if any, which led many anti-Communist Poles to speak of postwar "Western betrayal". In the same year, the new Communist-dominated Legislative Sejm voted for the Small Constitution of 1947, and Bierut, who was also a citizen of the USSR, was elected president of Poland by the parliament.

With the support of a majority in its own right and the departure of Mikołajczyk, the government dropped all pretense of being a coalition. The 1947 election, therefore, marked the onset of undisguised Communist rule in Poland, though it would take another five years for a permanent constitution to become law.

Over the next few years, the Communists consolidated their grip on the country. The final step came in 1948, when they forced what remained of the PPS to merge with them to form the Polish United Workers Party.[18] The PSL lingered on for a year and a half after being defeated in an election that it would have likely won had the count been honest. In 1949, the rump of the PSL merged with the pro-Communist People's Party to form the United People's Party, which was one of two legal minor parties in Poland.


  • Janusz Wrona (ed.), Kampania wyborcza i wybory do Sejmu Ustawodawczego 19 stycznia 1947 (Elections campaign and the elections to the Legislative Sejm of 19 January 1947), Wydawnictwo Sejmowe, 1999 ISBN 83-7059-322-4;
  • Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy the History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000, Oxford University Press, 2002, Google Print, p.300
  • Stephen Schlesinger, Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations, Westview Press, 2003, Google Print, p.225
  • Alexander Cockburn, The Golden Age Is in Us: Journeys and Encounters, 1987-1994, Verso, 1997, Google Print, p.157
  • Tom Buchanan, Europe's Troubled Peace, 1945-2000: 1945-2000, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, Google Print, p.84

Further reading

  • Michał Skoczylas, Wybory do Sejmu Ustawodawczego z 19 stycznia 1947 roku w świetle skarg ludności (Elections to the Legislative Sejm on 19 January 1947 in the light of citizens complains), TRIO, 2003, ISBN 83-88542-43-5
  • Jerzy Drygalski, Jacek Kwasniewski, No-Choice Elections, JSTOR
  • George Sakwa, Martin Crouch, Sejm Elections in Communist Poland: An Overview and a Reappraisal, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 403–424,
  • Richard F. Staar, Elections in Communist Poland, Midwest Journal of Political Science, Vol. 2, No. 2 (May, 1958), pp. 200–218, JSTOR
  • [1])

External links

  • Results of the 1947 elections
  • (Polish) Pułkownik Pałkin raportuje: Sfałszowanie wyborów w Polsce nie zbulwersowało opinii Zachodu.
  • (Polish) Sfałszowane wybory – 19 stycznia 1947 roku
  • (Polish) Jak sfałszowano pierwsze powojenne wybory, Polityka, 20 stycznia 2007 r.

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