Last week saw elections in both Poland and the UK. While Poles were going to the polls to choose a president, the British were electing a new parliament. If you’ve been following the elections in either country in English, you may have come across lots of new political language . So, to help you out, here are my top ten English language political phrases and explanations. I’ve also included some insights into the similarities and differences between the British and Polish political systems. I hope they get your ‘vote of approval’!
1. Constituency: An area of the UK which is represented by an MP (Member of Parliament). There are 650 constituencies in the country.
2. Majority: If a party wins over 50% of the seats, they have an overall majority and can form a government. This happened in Britain with David Cameron’s Conservative Party. Similarly, an MP’s majority is the margin of victory which he or she has.
3. Opinion poll/ exit poll: These are surveys carried out before an election which show how people are likely to vote. An exit poll is a survey carried out on election day which shows how people actually voted. In the Polish presidential election, the exit poll showed that the PiS candidate Andrzej Duda was ahead of Bronisław Komorowski, whereas the opinion polls had shown Komorowski in the lead.
4. Safe seat/ marginal seat: A safe seat is one where a party has a large majority, and is almost certain to win. A marginal seat is one where the majority is small. These seats are the most important ones in the election, as they decide the final result.
5. Turnout: This is the percentage of registered voters who actually cast a vote. In the UK last week turnout was the highest since 1997 with 66.1 % of the population casting their votes.
6. Swing: When one party loses a lot of votes to another compared with the previous election, we say there has been a swing away from it. It is often referred to in percentage terms.
7. Lower house/Upper house: Parliaments usually have two houses, a lower house and the upper house. In the UK they are called the House of Commons and the House of Lords, whereas in Poland the Sejm is the lower house and the Senat is the upper house.
8. Incumbent: This refers to the person who was the winner last time and is standing (in US English: running) again. So, in the Polish presidential election, Bronisław Komorowski is the incumbent, and the other candidates are the challengers.
9. Term of office: This is the period of time that a person or party is in power. In both the UK and Poland, the government has a five-year term of office.
10. First-past-the-post/ PR: These are the two main electoral systems. The UK parliament works on a first-past-the-post system, which means that whoever has the most votes in a constituency wins the seat, regardless of whether there is an overall majority. Under Proportional Representation (PR) a party’s representation in Parliament is determined by the percentage of votes they receive in total. The Polish Sejm is elected by a PR system.
There you have it, your top 10 political terms which you can now use in your English to ensure you are a vote winner with everyone you talk to!