Poland is a parliamentary republic. The president has strong executive powers. He nominates the Prime Minister and has the power to dissolve parliament. He can veto legislation and propose his own. The legislative power rests with the Lower House, the Sejm, with 460 members, and the Senat, with 100 members. The Sejm enacts the legislation, approves the appointment of the Prime Minister and appoints members of the Council of Ministers, or cabinet.
Currently, there are two parties which hold most of the legislative seats: Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (PiS), and Platforma Obywatelska (PO). PiS holds slightly more seats in both the Sejm and the Senat, though it falls short of a majority in either legislative body. In political terms, PiS supports social conservatism with centrist economic stances, while PO is generally regarded as a party of liberal conservatism.
Other opposition parties include Samoobrona RP, Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (SLD), Liga Polskich Rodzin (LPR), and Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (PSL), all of which have a fair amount of support and hold seats in the legislature.
Lech Aleksander Kaczynski, the president of Poland until his death in a plane crash in April of 2010, was a member of PiS. Bronislaw Komorowski served as acting President from April through July, when he was officially elected to office.
Poland is addressing the challenges of the change to a free-market economy. Indications are that the drastic reforms of 1990, called shock therapy, have succeeded. The Polish economy continues to expand and is considered the strongest of the former Soviet-bloc countries. Poland joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in July 1996, NATO in March 1999, and was one of ten nations that joined the European Union (EU) in May, 2004.
Progress, however, has not been without social cost, and many Poles feel excluded from the current boom. Almost one fourth of Poland's citizens are pensioners, whose pensions have not kept up with inflation. The government is pushing to improve the security of Polish citizens, cool a somewhat overheated economy and reform the pension system. Poland's unemployment rate is also the highest of any EU nation.