Poland: The Constitutional Mosaic

IN AT LEAST ONE RESPECT, THE CONTEMPOrary Polish legal system resembles the British system: Poland does not have any single document that serves as the country’s written constitution. Among the texts that stand in for the constitution, two are of primary importance: remnants of the Stalinist 1952 constitution, many times amended but still regulating citizens’ rights, among other things, and a relatively new document, a constitutional law adopted in 1992 called the “small constitution.” However unclear the current constitutional provisions are, they provide a framework for the country’s political life, but their lack of clarity often exacerbates political instability and conflicts. Differing constitutional interpretations have played an important role in the struggle between the president, who through trial and error is trying to redefine the scope of his power, and parliament, which since 1993 has been dominated by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL). Both are transformed parties that existed prior to 1989, albeit under different names.