Step by step for four years, Poland’s ruling party, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), has been dismantling democracy. Starting almost immediately after it came to power with the assault on the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal in December 2015, a fully consolidated democracy has been deconsolidating. Poland, thus, follows the pattern observed by Zoltán Gábor Szűcs, in his recent post on Hungary, with the important difference: in Poland, the deconsolidation is proceeding much more rapidly.
The intensity and consistency of the PiS attack on democratic institutions came as a surprise to all but the harshest critics of the party. The experience of Kaczynski’s party’s first stint in government from 2005-2007 – when the authoritarian tendencies of PiS were effectively checked by the courts, independent media, civil society organizations, and ultimately by the citizens that voted them out of office – had largely faded away after eight years of boringly stable rule by the center-right Civic Platform party . When Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s most influential liberal daily, published an editorial warning that democracy itself was at stake in the 2015 parliamentary elections, it was ridiculed by a large part of the liberal commentariat as fear-mongering and political partisanship unworthy of a serious newspaper. Few detractors later admitted that the warning was correct, even when Gazeta reprinted their editorial verbatim after two years of democratic backsliding from PiS.
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