A Year in Review: Law and Loyalty?

, by Julia Aniśko

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

A Year in Review: Law and Loyalty?

2016 was Poland’s first full year under the power of the Law and Justice party since the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. Planned reforms and countless protests enriched the political and social scene, especially during the last few December weeks with the spike in protests against the new media laws. Now, Poland will be greeted with the consequences of the decisions of the Law and Justice party in the new year.

Where have you gone, Democracy?

Reforms should be Poland’s word of the year for 2016, as the Law and Justice introduced a running list of reforms and desired changes in the government and in Poland as a whole. Educational reforms, new media laws, abortion law reforms, talks about deportation… the government disregards the people while creating change, and many citizens await an era of burning witches at the stakes.

With the birth of reforms came the birth of protests. The public reacted loudly against any and all reforms. Women went down to the streets with their Black Protests against the planned abortion and contraception restrictions. Teachers and parents protested, and still protest against the changes in the education system, the return of an eight-year primary school, and the newest reforms of the mandatory reading list. Crowds mocked Mateusiak-Pielucha’s deportation idea, both on- and off-line. Reporters and the opposition even occupied the parliament, in order to make their statement loud and clear: “We want free media!”, which the Law and Justice party considered illegal practice. Even the happily-accepted 500+ policy is now showing its true face, as citizens finally realize how poorly thought out the handing out of money for raising children is.

Nonetheless, protesting hasn’t been as effective as desired, and the government continues to aim for their ideals, against the will of the people.

Sacrifices for Kaczyński

No one can disagree that while not holding any government post, Jarosław Kaczyński is one of the most powerful figures in Poland. More loyal to the Law and Justice party than to the people, he, along with Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, and other political figures are well known for their right-winged beliefs and ideals, and the endless list of reforms, which bring Poland one step closer to authoritarianism.

Kaczyński is so deeply entwined in Catholic patriotic - almost nationalistic - mindset, that he believes economic growth is worth the sacrifice in order to pursue his dreams in creating his ideal country. His goals however aren’t enough to calm the restless people, who worry about the slowdown of the economy, with economic growth dropping from 3.6 percent in 2015 to 2.5 in 2016. Kaczyński believes, one should be willing to pay the price, as the future will be brighter. Many disagree, seeing Poland fall apart before their very eyes.

Poland’s Warnings

The EU has already reacted to the chain of events, the European Commission instituted a rule of law procedure against Warsaw. Nonetheless, Warsaw ignored the Commission’s demand, the Law and Justice party leader, Jarosław Kaczyński calling the EU’s rule of law a “comedy”. Poland’s incapability and lack of desire to cooperate with the EU sparks reactions not only within the EU, but within Poland itself.

In December, Poland’s independence hero, Lech Wałęsa expressed his opinion about Poland’s leading party and its decisions. He clearly stated his current political goal: to end the dominance of Poland’s Law and Justice party. Wałęsa mentioned his distrust in Jarosław Kaczyński, calling him dangerous and irresponsible. While he wasn’t eager to go against Poland, Wałęsa simply had no other choice. In his eyes, Poland needs to face the consequences of its poor decisions: being thrown out of the EU. Poland actually could be stripped of its EU voting rights, if seen fit by the other 27 members. However this would be near impossible with Hungary’s right-winged government stating it would veto such decision.

Now what?

Democracy is falling apart and Poland is threatened by authoritarian rule. Many, especially young people, feel it is best to leave the country, forgetting about the trouble and future problems at hand. Others continue to speak up, protesting and pointing out flaws in the government. Will the Law and Justice party continue to shape a country regardless of what the people have to say? This is the year Poland finds out.

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