Poland’s civil society ‘roars to life’


Politico-Poland-FINAL-714x677Thousands of Poles used yesterday’s anniversary of the imposition of martial law by the communist regime 35 years ago to protest against the current conservative government, the BBC reports:

The pro-democracy movement, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), organized nationwide marches in protest against the government’s position on women’s rights, as well as reforms to the education and justice systems. Opposition parties have been accusing the government of restricting democratic freedoms, interfering in media independence, and diminishing the powers of the Constitutional Tribunal, as the constitutional court is known in Poland.

The right-wing government is “destroying everything I fought for,” said Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity leader. “Free and democratic Poland is in danger,” he told The New York Times:

A year after roaring into office with a majority in the Polish Parliament, the governing party, Law and Justice, has embarked on a new round of what it calls necessary reforms to strengthen the power of the executive branch. Opponents call it a troubling slide toward authoritarianism.

Shortly after assuming power, the party — led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president killed in the 2010 crash in Smolensk, Russia — passed laws that effectively hobbled the highest constitutional court and firmed up government control over public news media and state prosecutions.

poland solidarnoscAccording to a February poll by the CBOS Institute, more people feel they can influence the political situation in the country than at any time since 1992, when only 7 percent felt that way, Christian Science Monitor reports. That grew to 33 percent in 2014, and 41 percent in 2016. Participation is up across the board – from signing petitions to blogging about politics to attending political gatherings.

“Both sides in Poland are protesting because they mobilize each other,” says Henryk Domanski, a sociologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw who has analyzed the European Social Survey data. “A protesting nation makes a healthier one and more democratic one.”

Poland provides an example of how liberal democracy in Europe appears to be increasingly vulnerable to the rise of nativist, populist, and illiberal forces, notes the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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