2009 | 3(92) | 27-46
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THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ACT OF 29 DECEMBER 1989 (Nowela konstytucyjna z 29 grudnia 1989 r.)

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The Act of 29 December 1989 on the Amendment of the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic put an end to the constitutional system based on the Marxist-Leninist doctrine and has laid the legal foundations for the formation of a democratic system of government in Poland. According to the original intention of its initiators, the amendment to the basic law was very narrowly drawn and would limit itself to establishing constitutional guarantees for the functioning of political pluralism, which became a political fact as a result of the Round-table discussions, a result of the election of 4 June and the appointment of the Cabinet of Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Fundamental changes in the system would have to be made by a new constitution (to be drafted and adopted in a near future). However, in the course of work on the draft amendment, it turned out that the basic principles of the system of government formulated in the then existing constitution are incompatible with the requirements of the ongoing process of political and economic transformation. Therefore, the need was recognised to repeal the introduction and two initial chapters. The provision stating that 'the Republic of Poland is a democratic state ruled by law and implementing the principles of social justice' was of a key importance for the systemic changes. The application of this provision in the constitutional system (as Article 1), has meant not only imposing the duty on public authorities to observe the law, but also provided the basis for determining material and formal requirements to be met by the existing law. The notion of a democratic state ruled by law, as a constitutional category, set the direction for change in legislation and created an area for judicial practice of the Constitutional Tribunal which, especially prior to the adoption of the Constitution of 1997, played important role in defining the principles of the Polish legal system. The second area of change concerning the amendment of the Constitution was national economy. A new economic system was based, above all, on the elimination of the privileged status of state ownership and the constitutional guarantee of ownership, on the basis of equality of treatment, and the guarantee of freedom of economic activity. As concerns public awareness building, the changes in the Polish national symbols, effected by the constitutional amendment, were of great significance. The official name of the state was restored to be the Republic of Poland and the Polish white eagle, as the state emblem, regained its crown to symbolise the state sovereignty. These changes reflected the collapse of the Soviet-dominated system of rule imposed on Poland in 1944.
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  • Jerzy Ciemniewski, Instytut Nauk Prawnych PAN, ul. Nowy Swiat 72, 00-330 Warszawa, Poland
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