The political system in Poland is defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2 April 1997. In accordance with the Constitution:
- The legislative power is exercised by a two-chamber Parliament which includes the Sejm and the Senat, elected for a 4-year term.
- The Sejm is the lower chamber of the Parliament and consists of 460 members elected according to the proportional election system. It exercises the legislative power and supervises the government.
- The Senat, the upper chamber of the Parliament re-established in 1989, has 100 members elected according to the majority system. Its legislative power is limited to the legislative initiative and proposals of amendments to bills passed by the Sejm.
- The executive power is exercised by the President and the Council of Ministers.
- The President is the head of state, safeguards the sovereignty and security of the State and the inviolability and integrity of its territory, and ensures the observance of the Constitution. The President is elected by the nation in free, general and direct elections for a 5-year term.
- The Council of Ministers is responsible for internal and foreign policies and manages the government administration. The Council is responsible for all policies which are not reserved for other state or local government bodies.
- The territorial organisation of the country provides for the decentralisation of government.
- Poland is divided into 16 provinces or regions (województwo), 380 districts (powiat) and 2,477 communes (gmina). The territorial division is defined in the Act of 24 July 1998 on the Introduction of the Basic Three-tier Territorial Division (ustawa z 24 lipca 1998 r. o wprowadzeniu zasadniczego trójstopniowego podziału terytorialnego).
- The head or governor of the province (wojewoda) represents the Council of Ministers in a given region. The governor supervises the institutions performing the tasks entrusted to the State. The Regional Education Authorities (kuratorium oświaty) are included in the regional administration and are responsible for pedagogical supervision over schools.
- Following the 1998 administration and local government reforms, the province governors are mainly responsible for supervision and control. Governance at regional level falls within the remit of local government bodies: the marshal and the council of the province.
- The local government takes part in exercising public authority. Local government units perform many of their public tasks in their own name and on their own responsibility. The three levels of local government which have existed since 1999 are: commune (gmina), district (powiat)and province (województwo).
As laid down in the Constitution, the commune (gmina) is the basic local government body. Its remit includes all public matters of local relevance which are not reserved by Acts of Parliament for other bodies. Communes cater to the needs of the local community in a number of areas, including healthcare, welfare, culture and education. They administer nursery schools (przedszkole), and primary schools (szkoła podstawowa). They operate in accordance with the Act of 8 March 1990 on the Commune-level Local Government (ustawa z 8 marca 1990 r. o samorządzie gminnym).
The district (powiat) was established on 1 January 1999 as the second level of local government. Each district supports communes within its territory in performing all functions which extend beyond the capacity and remit of the latter. The responsibilities of a district include administering upper secondary schools and hospitals and managing public roads. It is also responsible for combating unemployment and for the protection of consumers’ rights. Districts operate in accordance with the Act of 5 June 1998 on the District-level Local Government (ustawa z 5 czerwca 1998 r. o samorządzie powiatowym).
The self-governing province (województwo) was established on 1 January 1999 as the third level of local government. It is responsible for regional economic and social development. The tasks of self-governing provinces include the establishment and administration of public initial and in-service teacher training institutions, educational resources centres, and schools and institutions operating at regional and supra-regional levels. Their remit does not undermine the independence of the districts and communes. They operate in accordance with the Act of 5 June 1998 on the Province-level Local Government (ustawa z 5 czerwca 1998 r. o samorządzie województwa).