Poland’s Law and Justice Party Up to Its Old Tricks

The conservatives try to remove justices who were appointed by their political opponents.

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński listens to a debate in parliament, November 18
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński listens to a debate in parliament, November 18 (PiS)

This Law and Justice government was supposed to be different.

When Poland’s conservatives won the election last month after eight years of liberal party rule, it was on a promise to run the country better than they did last time.

But a law enacted on Thursday to remove justices from the constitutional court does not suggest they will govern very differently this time around.

“Law and Justice is over,” said former prime minister Ewa Kopacz, leader of the Civic Platform. “Today it’s Lawlessness and Injustice.”


The writing was on the wall when the party unveiled its cabinet last month. Hardliners from the last Law and Justice government were back: Mariusz Błaszczak was named interior minister; Witold Waszczykowski took foreign affairs.

Błaszczak immediately caused a stir when he dismissed as “another example of German arrogance” remarks from the German president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who had criticized Poland for not taking in more immigrants.

“We are talking in Warsaw,” he pointed out in an interview. “Warsaw was destroyed by the Germans.”

The 2005-2007 Law and Justice government missed no opportunity to insult the Germans, even though they are Poland’s most important trading partners.

The liberal Civic Platform that succeeded it strengthened ties with Berlin and presided over a growing economy and a growing Polish influence in Brussels. Party leader Donald Tusk was elected president of the European Council last year.

New faces

Law and Justice put on a new face in the election this year. The 43-year-old Andrzej Duda had already reclaimed the presidency for the right; now Beata Szydło would become the prime minister.

Both leader are from a younger generation than the Kaczyński brothers who ran the country in the last decade and they were able to expand the party’s support in the more cosmopolitan, traditionally Protestant west of Poland.

But Jarosław Kaczyński, the former prime minister, is still party leader and up to his old tricks.

Stacked court

He claimed on Wednesday that the Constitutional Tribunal is filled with political opponents who would try to stop Law and Justice at every turn.

The rightwinger also alleged that Civiv Platform had rushed through court appointments because it knew it was going to lose the election.

In fact, the most recent appointment was made in 2012, more than three years before the election.

The tribunal’s fifteen members are elected for nine-year terms by parliament. It will now have to rule itself on the constitutionality of Law and Justice’s attempt to unseat five of its members.

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