Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland

Mateusz Morawiecki
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki gives a speech at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, April 11, 2019 (KPRM/Adam Guz)

Poland’s ruling conservative party’s obsession with bending the legal system to its will is creating what the Financial Times calls a parallel legal system: one set of judges are loyal to Małgorzata Gersdorf’s still-independent Supreme Court while another obey the government-friendly Constitutional Tribunal. Read more “Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland”

Setbacks for Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party

Mateusz Morawiecki
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki receives applause, February 6 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has suffered a number of setbacks in the last couple of months:

  • It lost local elections in Poland’s big cities and small towns.
  • The European Court of Justice forced it to reinstate 22 Supreme Court justices it had forced into retirement.
  • A bribery scandal at Poland’s financial regulator has thrown doubt on the party’s self-portrayal as “outsiders” who are cleaning up the mess made by corrupt liberal elites. Read more “Setbacks for Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party”

Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade

Andrzej Duda
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

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 “Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade”

Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America

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 “Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America”

Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats

Viktor Orbán Vladimir Putin
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.

Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz and Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice party pretend to apply a majoritarian logic while colonizing the institutions of checks and balances:

For now, it means the majority can rule without constraints. Tomorrow, it means they can thwart another majority by using their control of the judiciary and state media. Read more “Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats”

Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court

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 “Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court”

How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

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 “How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland”

Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party pushed through more changes to the court system on Wednesday:

  • One bill takes power to appoint members to the National Judicial Council, which is responsible for appointing lower-level judges, away from the judiciary itself and gives it to parliament, where Law and Justice has a majority.
  • The same law removes fifteen of the 25 judges currently serving on the National Judicial Council.
  • A second bill gives the justice minister the power to unilaterally replace court presidents. Read more “Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary”