Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade

An anti-goverment demonstrations in Warsaw, Poland, February 27, 2016
An anti-goverment demonstrations in Warsaw, Poland, February 27, 2016 (Jaap Arriens)

There have been two developments this week in the attempts of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party to subject the judiciary to political control:

  1. The Senate approved legislation that makes it possible for the government to appoint the next Supreme Court chief justice.
  2. The European Court of Justice ruled that other EU countries can refuse extradition requests from Poland if they fear suspects may not receive a fair trial there. Read more

Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America

Jarosław Kaczyński, Beata Szydło and Mateusz Morawiecki, the leaders of Poland's Law and Justice party, attend a memorial in Kraków, April 18
Jarosław Kaczyński, Beata Szydło and Mateusz Morawiecki, the leaders of Poland’s Law and Justice party, attend a memorial in Kraków, April 18 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling nationalist party has coined the awkward term “Polocaust” to describe the country’s suffering in World War II. At least one minister wants to dedicate a separate museum to the 1.9 million non-Jewish Poles who lost their lives in the conflict.

This comes after the government criminalized blaming Poles for the Holocaust and referenced its 123 years of partition by Austria, Germany and Russia when called out by the EU for illiberal judicial reforms.

Poland, according to the Law and Justice party, has only ever been a victim — until it came to power and restored Polish pride.

It is no coincidence that Law and Justice is popular in the eastern and more rural half of the country, where people have long felt marginalized by the Western-oriented liberal elite.

Nor is the party’s victim-mongering unique. Read more

Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

Michael Meyer-Resende of Democracy Reporting International argues for Carnegie Europe that applying the term “illiberal democracy” or “majoritarianism” to the politics of Hungary and Poland is a misnomer. The ruling parties there are not undermining democracy — by taking control of the (state) media, stacking the courts and rewriting election laws — for the sake of the majority, but rather to maintain their own power. Read more

Polish Nationalists Try to Rewrite History

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the statue of Józef Bem in Budapest, Hungary, January 26
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the statue of Józef Bem in Budapest, Hungary, January 26 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party is trying to rewrite history — and it’s hurting Polish relations with the rest of Europe. Read more

Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016 (PiS)

Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party is forcing through judicial reforms that the Supreme Court’s president, Małgorzata Gesdorf, has said would “end” the Supreme Court and “break” the Constitution.

The changes are expected to be enacted next week after a parliamentary committee voted for the legislation on Thursday.

During a hearing, lawmakers from the ruling party rejected all amendments from the opposition, refused to hear independent legal counsel and ignored warnings from parliament’s own lawyers, who said the reforms might be unconstitutional.

Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform, has called for demonstrations in the streets.

“This is no longer a creeping coup,” he told Polish television. “This coup begins to strike.” Read more

How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015 (PiS)

Remi Adekoya explains in Foreign Affairs how Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been able to remain popular despite truncating democratic norms and institutions and antagonizing the EU:

  • It has raised social spending, specifically for poor rural families with children.
  • It portrays its domestic opponents as corrupt elites fighting to preserve their influence.
  • It portrays its European critics as fanatical multiculturalists and militant secularists who are so obsessed with political correctness they have lost all sense of self-preservation. Read more

Poland’s Law and Justice Party Finally Went Too Far

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło and Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński attend a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 airline crash near Smolensk, April 10
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło and Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński attend a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 airline crash near Smolensk, April 10 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party backed away from controversial press reforms on Tuesday after several nights of street demonstrations in the capital Warsaw.

The concession is a rare victory for the liberal-minded opposition, which has otherwise been unable to stop Law and Justice from reversing the last twenty years of Poland’s democratization and liberalization. Read more