Follow the big issues that shape Polish politics and society by signing up to our weekly newsletter "News from Poland: Democracy at Stake". It allows you to stay up to speed on developments concerning the ongoing assault on democratic institutions, rule of law, and human rights in Poland.
Five years ago, on the eve of the election that gave Law and Justice a parliamentary majority, we wrote that “Democracy is on the ballot”. We were accused of fear mongering and of cynically overstating the stakes. Today words are no longer necessary. Facts speak for themselves.
Back then, we predicted that a ruling camp that pays lip service to its patriotism but shows only contempt to the Polish raison d’Etat would be a disgrace. Ever since, we have been reporting on the many ways in which our forecast became the reality.
They promised Budapest, but delivered Minsk
PM Morawiecki is disparaging the EU in a way that can only be compared to Nigel Farage. Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro openly reveals that his goal is to push Poland out of the EU, bring back customs and close off our borders. In other words, to deprive Poles of EU citizenship. Jarosław Kaczyński, the sad caricature of a Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security, threatens the opposition with jail.
The illegal “Disciplinary Chamber” of the Supreme Court is depriving judge Igor Tuleya his immunity in violation with Polish and EU law. Undercover police officers use tear gas and telescopic batons to violently assault women in the centre of Warsaw. Throughout Poland, police increasingly resort to authoritarian methods of intimidation. Precincts all over the country are interrogating women who bought pills used for medical abortion. In Krapkowice, central Poland,
a 14-year old boy was harassed by police officers at his home for posting information about women’s protest on his facebook account. He was threatened not only with expulsion from school, but also with formal charges of “instigating an illegal gathering”, resulting in a potential punishment of up to eight years total in juvenile detention centre and then prison.
They said they wanted to bring Budapest to Warsaw, but they landed in Minsk instead.
On Wednesday, the ruling camp took Poles for a faraway trip to the East and away from Europe. The next act took place on Thursday - the governing majority voted in a resolution in support of the Polish veto to the EU budget.
They want unrestricted power
The Law and Justice party is ready to reject the most ambitious European investment initiative since the Marshall plan. It will lead to Poland losing approximately 60 billion euros from the Recovery Fund, as well as part of the cohesion funds and less money in agricultural subsidies. It will block other member states suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic from accessing the necessary funds.
Veto is a weapon of choice of the weak and the isolated. Without allies and with increasingly bad reputation, Poland will end up outside the EU.
The narrative used to besmirch the EU mirrors the Brexit campaign. The slogan “taking back control” doomed the United Kingdom to political chaos. If we fail to act, Poland will share the same fate.
Generations have fought to bring Poland within the Western community. We, the citizens of Poland, entered the EU after supporting our accession through a referendum. We did not change our mind. Polexit means losing the guarantees of civil liberties, as well as unimaginable political, economic and financial costs. Neither Kaczyński nor Ziobro will be politically active by the time our children and grandchildren will be facing the consequences of their madness.
Vetoing the EU budget is only in the interest of the Law and Justice party. It is the result of an internecine strife within the ruling camp. Ziobro and the weakening Kaczyński want to do away with any forces that limit their ability to increase their despotic power in the increasingly isolated country.
Kaczyński’s threats to the opposition and police violence deployed against the peaceful, legally protesting crowd as well as members of the parliament who were supporting them paints a picture of Poland already outside the European community. Those with the courage to defy the governing party will be treated like judge Tuleya - facing accusations from prosecutors fanatically loyal to Ziobro and convictions by illegal courts.
By escalating the political conflict, the ruling camp is hoping to hide its indolence in dealing with the pandemic and the economic crisis. It tries to mask the fact that it is rotting from the inside. Poll after poll, we see a sharp decline in support for the Law and Justice party.
Poland is adrift amid the Covid-19 fog. Over the last six weeks, the total number of deaths in the country is far above its multi-year average. People are dying because the government was focused on mobilizing the entire state apparatus to help re-elect president Duda at the expense of preparing for the second wave of the pandemic.
The ruling camp lost its legitimacy, but it has no plans to give up its power. It is ready to hold onto it through violence and repression. Until recently, opposition MPs were only insulted. Now, they are being pushed around and tear gassed by the police.
Opposition - it’s time to act!
The Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine started when Yanukovych refused to sign the association agreement with the EU and sent the security apparatus to beat up the young protesters. In Poland, it is time for those who want to defend Poland’s EU membership to join the women’s protest. Police brutality can mobilize people instead of intimidating them into submission.
To stand up to the threat of Polexit, the opposition parties have to work hand in hand with civil society activists who spent the last month marching on Polish streets to defend women’s rights.
All moderate politicians who still belong to the ruling camp should consider whether they want to be responsible for Poland leaving the EU. It is their last call to come to their senses before they cross the line to live forever in infamy in Polish history books.
We cannot afford to wait three years until the next parliamentary elections. There is no guarantee that they will not be rigged, or even that they will take place at all. Opposition forces have to act now to help organize a universal civil movement of resistance. Citizens will answer the call once they believe such a movement will act according to a clear, strategic plan and be guided by capable leadership.
The editorial office of “Gazeta Wyborcza”
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus pandemic for you.
They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.
We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.
The access to information should be equal for all.