Will ‘The Left’ make it to the starting gate?

The State Electoral Commission has called on “The Left”, which is the umbrella organisation of parties of the left, to correct its notice of forming an election slate.

Analysis: Aiming for the balance of power

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Formally “The Left” slate is being put together by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) which is registered as a political party. But the notice of forming an election slate uses the name “The Left”. The SLD is attempting to change its name and has filed the appropriate paperwork with the district court in Warsaw. But the court has yet to register that new name.

The change in the name of the SLD has come as a result of its agreement with both Robert Biedroń’s “Spring” and the “Together” party whose candidates are to stand on “The Left” election lists for Parliament. In this way, the parties of the left want to avoid having to reach the eight percent electoral threshold required by formal coalitions of parties and will only need to get the five percent required by parties standing on their own. But only registered parties can take advantage of such provisions.

In the 2015 election, a coalition of the SLD and other parties of the left fell just short of reaching the eight percent threshold and as a result, the SLD has spent the last four years out of Parliament. Once bitten, twice shy.

Sources within the SLD say that the party expected the State Electoral Commission to make such a ruling. They filed the application as “The Left” to avoid a situation in which some other body claimed the name in advance of the SLD’s name change registration. They also stated that they expected that the court’s decision on the matter was imminent and have assured that, if need be, the slate will be registered under a name which is legally acceptable.

Comment:

This is the problem with last-minute changes of names of parties. The courts in Poland are not known for breaking records for speed in dealing with cases.

This episode also highlights that the parties of the left are by-passing the electoral law. They are effectively standing as a coalition of parties, yet by using the conjuring trick of agreeing to stand on the lists of one of the parties and change its name they are able to qualify for the lower electoral threshold.

This may imply that the election law needs to be changed, either to make the eight percent threshold harder to by-pass, or by scrapping it altogether. The five percent threshold is after all a sufficient barrier for very small parties to enter parliament.


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