Liberum veto


January 23, 2022

The Liberum veto (Latin: Liberum veto means "I freely forbid") was a parliamentary tool, which allowed any member of the Polish Sejm to prevent the adoption of a law if he did not agree with it. bring into a state of anarchy.


The rule developed from the principle of unanimous decision-making and from the federal character of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, which was essentially a federation of countries. Each member of the Seimas was elected at the local assembly and represented the entire region. He was therefore responsible to the local assembly for all decisions made in the Sejm. Decisions made by the majority against the will of the minority, even if that minority was one delegate, were considered a violation of the principle of political equality. It is believed, although wrongly, that the liberum veto was first used by the delegate Vladislav Sičinski in 1652. He only vetoed the extension of the work of the Sejm beyond the limits allowed by the statute. For the first time, the use of the liberum veto prematurely interrupted the work of the Sejm in 1669. In the first half of the 18th century, it became common for the sessions of the Seimas to be interrupted by the use of the liberum veto. Poland's neighbors Russia and Prussia have begun to use the liberum veto to their advantage. It was a convenient tool to prevent attempts to reform and strengthen the Polish-Lithuanian Union. It was enough to bribe some delegates and prevent the adoption of laws that do not suit them. The Union has slipped from a European power into a state of anarchy. Russia and Prussia could thus control Poland.


After 1764, the principle was introduced that the liberum veto was not valid at the Confederate Sejm. At the beginning of the session of the Seimas, the deputies would form a confederation in order to prevent interruptions by using the liberum veto. The May Constitution, proclaimed on May 3, 1791, abolished the liberum veto and introduced the principle of the Confederate Sejm. This established the principle of majority decision-making. However, that constitution was repealed at the Confederate Sejm in Grodno in 1793. The Sejm, under pressure from Russia and Prussia, ratified the Second Partition of Poland.


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