Polish Germans Suffer Worst Election Result of Minority Since 1991

The leader of the German minority in Poland, Henryk Kroll, who was an MP for all five previous terms of Sejm, failed to secure a seat this year.

Kroll lost by just 297 votes to Ryszard Galla, a colleague from the German minority-voting list.

He plans to step down as chairman next spring, and Galla, who has already revealed plans to reform the organization, will almost surely take over. This year’s result was the poorest showing in parliamentary elections since Poland was freed from Communist dictatorship.

In 1991, Germans had seven seats in Sejm, and one in the Senate. Two years later, they had four MPs in Sejm, and one in the Senate. The last three elections brought them two places in Sejm.

Unlike other voter committees, ethnic minorities do not have to meet the standard of receiving at least 5 percent of the nationwide vote totals to get a place in Sejm.

Kroll said the defeat stemmed from two causes. First, many Germans have left Poland for better-paying jobs in other EU countries, including Germany. Second, the two biggest parties ? Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS) ? dominated the public debate before the elections.

Even though the German candidates aired their spots on local TV, many voters turned to the Civic Platform. According to the last nationwide census of 2002, Germans are the second-largest ethnic minority in Poland after Silesians. Silesians are not, however, recognized as a nation by the Polish state.

Five years ago 160,000 people living in Poland declared themselves as Germans, most of them living in Opole Voivodeship, where they make up 10 percent of the population.

Silesians comprise 0.45 percent of the inhabitants of Poland while Germans account for 0.4 percent. Other ethnic minorities are: Belarusians (0.13), Ukrainians (0.08), Romanians (0.03), Russians, Lemkos and Lithuanians (all ? 0.01). Some 1.23 percent of people living in Poland declare other nationalities while 2.03 percent don’t specify ethnicity.

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