Poland locked in battle of traditionalists vs modernizers


Three months after it voted for change, Poland is wracked by crisis. Just 38 per cent handed a victory to Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s national conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) and, for the first time since the transition to democracy in 1989, a single party could form a government in Poland, notes Eugeniusz Smolar, a senior fellow and former chairman of the Centre for International Relations, Warsaw.

Within weeks, this new government has attacked the very basis of the liberal democratic order and its institutional check-and-balances: the constitutional tribunal, writes Smolar, who has assisted democracy movements, including Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia:

Fearing that Poland’s highest court might declare some new legislation unconstitutional, the PiS has introduced laws that render the tribunal powerless. It has allowed for political appointees to head the civil service at all levels and made the public media directly dependent on government. Independent prosecutors will soon be subjugated to the minister of justice and the whole justice system will be overhauled…..

As Poland’s real leader, Kaczynski has declared that he wants to follow the example of Hungary’s Victor Orbán and his model of “illiberal democracy” with the primacy of political will over the law. During a recent parliamentary debate, a statement that “the good of the people comes before the law” was met with a standing ovation by the PiS majority. Several bishops have declared that “natural law” and morality comes before the constitution.

“For decades we fought for an independent, European, democratic, liberal and open Poland. Now we are witnessing a grave threat to this historical achievement,” Smolar contends. “Poland is now a deeply divided country, one where compromise is difficult to imagine. As in TurkeyHungary and Russia,


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