Dozens of former Polish ambassadors are warning that Poland’s democracy is at risk and urging the U.S. to pressure the country’s populist government during a coming visit to respect human rights and stop flouting the constitution. President Trump’s forthcoming visit follows recent revelations the justice ministry encouraged an online hate campaign against judges who have been critical of the government, AP reports:
It also comes as the ruling party, Law and Justice, and the country’s powerful Catholic church have been depicting gays and lesbians as threats to Polish society and to families. That appears to be a campaign ploy ahead of parliamentary elections on Oct. 13 to appeal to the conservative heartland in a country where many people cling to their traditional Catholic values, and feel that they are under attack from EU membership and liberal Western mores.
“The division of powers is being dismantled and the independent judiciary is being destroyed. Human rights are curtailed, and the growing repression of political opponents and various minorities, be they ethnic, religious or sexual, is not only tolerated by the government, but even inspired by it,” they write. “Your powerful voice calling for tolerance and mutual respect, as well as compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and other laws, may have historical significance.”
In the past three years, most hitherto independent organs have suffered cannibalistic encroachment, weakening or takeover by Poland’s government, according to Martin Krygier, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy:
The formerly independent constitutional tribunal is now its instrument. Ordinary courts, prosecutors, ministries, have been attacked, some already destroyed, then taken over. Public television has been transformed into an unswerving government propaganda mouthpiece, about 11,000 civil servants have been replaced by party nominees, party nepotism is rife, and numerous critics are sued for defamation, civil, criminal and disciplinary, by the ruling party. Parliamentary debate has been reduced to a grotesque sham.
Wojciech Sadurski’s Poland’s Constitutional Breakdown atomizes the dismantling of Poland’s liberal democratic institutions since the Law and Justice Party (PiS) entered government in October 2015, with resonance for European and global democracy-watchers, according to Democracy Decay’s Tom Gerald Daly.