Is the election in Poland a step towards authoritarianism? – Liberal Article

We should care about the election in Poland – Liberal Article

On 13 July, with 51% of the vote, Andrzej Duda became President of Poland for a second term. This was a sad victory for intolerance and autocracy. The destruction of Poland’s democracy is imminent. The world cannot ignore this erosion of rights any longer. 

Duda and the Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, or ‘PiS’ for short) only narrowly won this election. Their Liberal opponent, Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, just missed a majority. Yet, Trzaskowski still lost. Leaving the stage with him was, the hope of a more tolerant Poland. Not until 2023 can any real change to the system be enacted, at least officially. Liberalism had its chance in Poland but has now been sadly forsaken.

Poland is not an isolated case, though. The success of PiS shows us how intolerance, when connected to nationalism, can be rapidly spread. This has allowed them to gain power and erode democracy. If we care about our human rights and democratic institutions, we should care about Poland’s election. 

Duda represents a party whose intolerance towards minorities is infamous. The Law and Justice Party have viciously fought against LGBTQ+ rights since their inception. The party leader and founder, Jarosław Kaczyński, has called the LGBTQ+ lobby a ‘corrupting influence’ against the ‘traditional family’ (whatever that means).

Kaczyński dresses this homophobia up in nationalism, claiming he is bettering Poland by defeating the ‘alien’ concept of Human Rights. Meanwhile, the world keeps silent whilst Poland’s government strips its LGBTQ+ citizens of their humanity.

The Law and Justice Party’s disgraceful intolerance towards Jewish people is worth mentioning as well. They have used explicitly antisemitic tactics in this election, describing their liberal opponent, Trzakowski, as serving ‘Jewish interests’.

This is deeply unsettling, given the Law and Justice’s history of antisemitism. The party has previously attempted to rewrite the history of the Holocaust to serve nationalist interests, whilst actively declining to pay reparations to Jewish families affected by this tragedy. Coupled with their xenophobic rhetoric, it is clear that deluded, nationalist prejudice guides the Law and Justice Party.  

Yet, this prejudice has cleared the path for their consolidation of power. Having won a majority in 2015, the Law and Justice Party attacked Poland’s judicial systems. The country’s judiciary is constitutionally independent of the government, but PiS does not see it this way.

The Party has filled Poland’s courts with party loyalists and has restricted appeals to the European Court of Justice. This is a power grab thinly veiled as an attempt to ‘protect’ Poland. Who would have guessed that actual law and justice meant nothing to the ‘Law and Justice’ Party after all?

Freedom of speech means little to PiS. Poland’s state TV, TVP, is firmly under the control of the party as well. The public station is famous for silencing dissenters of the Law and Justice Party and covering-up PiS scandals. It was telling that TVP did not premier a debate between Duda and Trzaskoswki; a clear sign of anti-liberal tendencies. Poland’s state TV is now a platform for propaganda. The intolerance of the Law and Justice Party will continue for the foreseeable future.

So why should we care? In fact, Poland’s election has a lot of lessons for the wider world. PiS has promoted its intolerant agenda and attack on democracy via aggressive nationalism. They have used this to appeal to a majority, creating Jews, foreigners, and LGBTQ+ people as scapegoats. By doing so, PiS has intentionally elevated the status of their target majority – white, Catholic, heterosexual Poles – over minority groups in Poland to gain votes. PiS has mobilised this appeal to consolidate their power, firmly cementing their intolerance.

We cannot permit intolerance against other groups of people, even if we are not seemingly harmed directly by it. The truth is, almost everyone is caught in the crossfires of prejudice. The success of the Law and Justice Party has displayed how aggressive nationalism is used as a self-destructive ideology to shield intolerance. As a result, dissent is now silenced, and opinions opposing the government have been actively stifled. 

Poland warns the world of the dangers of promoting one group against another. We should be cautious not to fall for the same trap in Britain, as intolerance and aggressive nationalism are often closely linked.

Education is our best bet against this. If we can promote equality and tolerance in our system, we can better fight against the disguises intolerance wears.

Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Frank Allen 

Point of Information

The situation is grim in Poland, but solutions are complex – A Conservative Response

Firstly, as someone who has emigrated from Poland a long time ago, I really loved Frank’s article. It captured perfectly the complex issues regarding Polish politics. Somehow, Andrzej Duda was able to make homophobia part of his platform – and won.

Sadly, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Over 85% of Polish citizens describe themselves as Catholic. This contributes to the overall view that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong. At the end of the day, this is what they hear every week in church. It doesn’t help that Church and State work very closely together, thus creating a hostile environment for anyone to the left of the Pope.

However, the tide is turning. Although this also requires a change in society and this could be tricky. A lot of Duda’s followers believe that the situation in Western Europe is a clear example of a slippery slope; where, as soon as people get equal rights and tolerance, they will be expecting preferential treatment next. They also see ‘LGBTQ+ ideology’ as this odd bogeyman, forcing people into suddenly turning gay (even though this is a ridiculous notion).

Frank is also correct regarding issues with freedom of speech. After the election, I’ve spoken to my friend who is a Polish lawyer. Simply put, people who don’t share the same values as Duda, have no chance of ever becoming judges.

On top of this, even though Duda could be considered socially far-right, his economic policies are basically left-wing. Almost the worst of both worlds if you ask me.

I wouldn’t really agree with Frank on similarities between the UK and Poland in terms of the dangers of nationalism. I feel that the UK just wants to better control and curb a problem, whilst Poland actively straight up supports hatred towards minorities.

The only way Poland can get out of this mess is if they re-focus on a moderate. In order for this country to change, society needs to understand LGBTQ+ issues better. When gay rights were at the forefront in the West, activists chose the route of explaining that gay people are ‘born this way’ and that they’re no different from anyone else. Yet, I fear this route may now be closed as this is now being strongly debated by LGBTQ+ activists. Are we setting a good example if we want Poland to move towards progress?

Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Dinah Kolka

A shocking lurch towards authoritarianism – A Labour Response

I grieve with Rafał Trzaskowski and the liberals of Poland for their agonisingly close defeat in the Presidential election. The 51/48 split is, by now, a familiar sign of a deeply divided nation.

Frank has brought a much-needed spotlight to the frightening shift towards anti-democratic nationalism in Poland. It can be hard sometimes to fully grasp the extent to which a country’s democracy is under threat. However, in these times, and with such leadership, it has become quite clear that Poland is on the verge of a Putin-style dictatorship.

As Frank aptly pointed out, all the hallmarks of democracy-threatening nationalism are on display: scapegoating of minorities; championing of traditional values; aggressive xenophobia; state-controlled media; judiciary under threat. It’s terrifying, yet also happening in a country that borders healthy democracies such as Germany and Czechia.

It is not a coincidence that Duda has achieved a second term during the Coronavirus pandemic. With widespread panic rife, and a deep recession on the horizon, demagogues and populists worldwide are taking advantage of the uncertainty. By focusing on social issues, such as Trump has with his attacks on the statue-topplers in the USA, they provide a welcome distraction and scapegoat for those who feel powerless. PiS’s outrageous rhetoric towards the Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities is a blatant example of such a tactic.

It is not off the cards that Duda will exploit the pandemic more explicitly, as Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban has, by wrangling the power to rule by decree, potentially indefinitely, under the guise of dealing with the Coronavirus crisis. Nor is it unlikely that a move to abolish term limits will be successful, as has happened in Russia.

The leaders of the EU and the rest of the world need to wake up and condemn the attack on Poland’s democracy before it crumbles to nothing before their eyes.

Written by Senior Labour Writer, Max Ingleby

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Frank Allen
Liberal writer | Website

Politics was a completely taboo subject for me as a young boy. Having lived almost all my life in Brunei and Qatar – two very strict, theocratic autocracies – I was cautious to keep my opinions well-guarded. The smallest negative remark about either country’s governance, for example, would’ve meant deportation for my family and I. Any non-approved political activity, no matter how naïve, had to be kept a secret. It was best not to question at all.

Dinah Kolka
Junior Conservative writer | Website

My name is Dinah Kolka and I am going into the first year of Journalism at Napier University in Edinburgh. Recently, I graduated from Edinburgh College with an HNC in Media and Communications. This ignited my interest in politics and journalism.

Max Ingleby
Labour political writer at | Website

A late bloomer when it comes to politics and current affairs, I first dipped my toes in the political pool at the tender age of sixteen with a bracing submersion into the AS politics syllabus, and I have been hooked ever since.

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