In Poland, dissatisfaction with the national conservatives is growing. Critics fear that the PiS could want to prevent a democratic transfer of power. A new law is fueling those fears.
Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, Poland has proved to be a reliable partner and steadfast supporter of Ukraine. The ongoing conflict with Brussels over judicial reform and the rule of law has receded into the background. But in the country, many see authoritarian tendencies in the PiS government – concern about the continued existence of democracy is growing. Many people are therefore expected at an opposition demonstration this Sunday in the center of Warsaw.
The call for protests was originally an initiative by former Prime Minister and opposition leader Donald Tusk from the liberal-conservative Civic Platform. But in the meantime, the dissatisfaction and anger at the PiS in parts of society have become so great that other parties and citizens’ initiatives have joined.
June 4th is a symbolic date in Poland: in 1989 the first partially free elections were held on this day. While 65 percent of the seats were reserved for the communist party, the voters were free to choose the rest of the deputies – it was a triumph for the democracy movement and the trade union Solidarnosc. The elections in Poland also heralded the start of political change in Europe until the fall of the Wall. Today the country is a member of the EU and NATO.
Now, a few months before the parliamentary elections in autumn, many Poles fear that the national conservatives, who have been in power since 2015, could cling to power and set the course in such a way that they cannot be replaced by the opposition after the election. The PiS itself has just fueled these fears – and that should bring more participants to the protest than initially thought.
On Monday, President Andrzej Duda signed a controversial law creating a commission of inquiry into Russian interference. The law introduced by the PiS seems tailor-made to discredit opposition leader Donald Tusk during the election campaign or even to ban him from political life. Polish media speak of a “Lex Tusk” – a law aimed at Tusk. The fact that Duda has backtracked after heavy criticism from Brussels and Washington and has announced changes to the law does not change the bad taste.
The law provides for the formation of a commission of inquiry that has many powers. The panel is tasked with examining whether public officials made decisions under Moscow’s influence between 2007 and 2022 that endangered the country’s security.
The original version provided for the Commission to be able to impose penalties and impose a ban from office for up to ten years. According to Duda’s proposed amendment, the body should now only determine “that a person who has acted under Russian influence cannot ensure proper fulfillment of the public interest”.
Tusk was the Polish head of government from 2007 to 2014 and is considered the fiercest political opponent of the powerful PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The 66-year-old from Gdańsk maintained close contact with then Chancellor Angela Merkel and also tried to improve Poland’s relationship with Russia. The PiS therefore alternately accuses him of being a lackey of Germany or the Kremlin.
When it comes to discrediting the opposition, the PiS no longer shy away from crossing borders. This was shown in a video clip distributed by the party on Twitter earlier this week. Footage from the former German concentration camp at Auschwitz, where the Germans murdered more than a million people – mostly Jews – displayed the logo of the June 4 demonstration and the question: “Do you really want to go with this slogan?” The participants of the protest march against the PiS should be denigrated in this way. But that should incite the anger at the government even more in many.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.