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Poland Country in E Europe, bounded N by the Baltic Sea, NE by Lithuania, E by Belarus and Ukraine, S by the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, and W by Germany.

• government
Under the revised constitution adopted 1990-91, Poland has a limited presidential political system. The executive president, directly elected for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms in a two-round majority contest, has responsibility for military and foreign affairs and has the authority to appoint the prime minister, dissolve parliament, call referenda, veto bills, and impose martial law. There is a two-chamber legislature, comprising a 460-member lower assembly, the Sejm (parliament), and a 100-member upper chamber, the Senat (senate). Deputies are elected to the Sejm for four-year terms by means of proportional representation in free, multiparty contests. The Sejm passes bills, adopts the state budget and economic plan, and appoints a 24-member executive council of ministers, headed by a chair, or prime minister. The Senat is elected on a provincial basis, each province returning two senators, except Warsaw and Katowice, which elect three. The Senat has the power of veto in specified areas, which can be overridden by a two-thirds Sejm vote.

• history
In the 10th century the Polish tribes were first united under one Christian ruler, Mieczyslaw. Mongols devastated the country 1241, and thereafter German and Jewish refugees were encouraged to settle among the Slav population. The first parliament met 1331, and Casimir the Great (1333-1370) raised the country to a high level of prosperity. Under the Jagiellonian dynasty (1386-1572) Poland became a great power, the largest country in Europe when it was united with Lithuania (1569-1776). Elected kings followed the death of the last Jagiello, a reactionary nobility wielded much power, and Poland's strength declined. But Stephen Báthory defeated Ivan the Terrible of Russia 1581, and in 1683 John III Sobieski forced the Turks to raise their siege of Vienna. In the mid-17th century a war against Russia, Sweden, and Brandenburg ended in the complete defeat of Poland, from which it was never allowed to recover.

• market economy
In June 1991 a treaty of good-neighbourliness and friendly cooperation was signed with Germany, confirming the Oder-Neisse border and recognizing the rights of the 500,000-strong German minority in Poland to their own culture, language, and religion.

• public discontent
The IMF approved further major loans April 1991 in support of the Polish government's economic reform programme. There was growing public discontent at the decline in living standards brought about by currency reform and the deepening recession. This led to industrial unrest as unemployment reached 1.5 million (8.4% of the working population) by June 1991.