"Double Elections" as a Context of Political Communication: Analyzing the 2005 Parliamentary and Presidential Campaign Advertising in Poland

By Stepinska, Agnieszka | CEU Political Science Journal, April 2010 | Go to article overview

"Double Elections" as a Context of Political Communication: Analyzing the 2005 Parliamentary and Presidential Campaign Advertising in Poland


Stepinska, Agnieszka, CEU Political Science Journal


1. Introduction

Although the history of modern democracy in post-communist countries is quite short, its mechanisms and instruments have been eagerly adopted by political actors. In Poland, political advertising was introduced as early as 1990, during the first free presidential election campaign after the communist regime collapsed in 1989. After almost five decades of a monopoly of the communist party and its propaganda, political advertising was perceived as a symbol of a democratic political market where independent political actors may compete with each other by presenting their political agendas.

Having none of their own traditions in modern political communication, Polish political actors quite frequently followed the patterns originating in the U.S., Great Britain, or France (1). While in the 1990s some political actors were advised by foreign spin doctors (for example, in 1995 presidential candidate Aleksander Kwasniewski was advised by Jacques Segue, previously employed by Francois Mitterand), nowadays they employ domestic political marketing advisers who were actually trained by foreign spin doctors (2). Not surprisingly, a few Polish scholars in their analyses of the Polish political spots recognized several strategies and techniques previously used by American presidential candidates and the leaders of Western European political parties (3).

On the other hand, in Poland one could observe some specific features of post-communist countries, namely instability of the political market and political identification of voters (4). Furthermore, after a short period of social enthusiasm caused by the change of the political regime, a decent part of society felt disappointed and became fairly passive (5). Since the late 1990s, more and more individuals have been loosing their interest and trust in political parties (6). However, since other types of political and civic organizations are still underdeveloped, political parties have played a crucial role in political communication (7).

Thus, a vast majority of previous studies on Polish political campaigns have explored the directions of political market development, the relations between political parties and candidates and the predominant influence of political parties on the content of campaign messages in every every kind of election (8).

In 2005, because of a particular schedule of parliamentary and presidential elections, both Polish political actors and society faced the challenge of "double elections" for the first time since the political system's transformation in 1989. The fact that two elections took place in the same year was a consequence of the simultaneous end of the president's and parliament's terms, while the accumulation of the campaigns was a result of the political decision made by two parties governing in 2005, namely Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (Democratic Left Alliance) and Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish People's Party). Specifically, the parliamentary election was set for the 25th of September 2005, with the presidential election on the 9th of October. Due to the Polish election law, parties could officially advertise from September 9th-23rd, and presidential candidates from September 24-October 7.

The idea of back-to-back elections were not popular in public opinion. Once the decision was announced, 62 percent of the voters felt disappointed and 76 percent agreed that politicians had made the decision exclusively according to their own interests. Voters had expected to have parliamentary elections in the spring of 2005, and the presidential election that fall (9).

While much political advertising scholarship examines regular presidential or parliamentary elections, less is known about how the context of simultaneous campaigns may influence the format and content of political advertising. The 2005 elections case created an unprecedented opportunity to examine strategies used by political parties and presidential candidates to take advantage of an unusual situation. …

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