Po­lit­i­cal mu­sic for four hands: Who and what shapes the agenda of Poland's rul­ing Law and Jus­tice

Who and what shapes the agenda of the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice party

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Zhanna Bezpi­atchuk

On ulica Adam Mick­iewicz in War­saw’s Zoli­borz District stands a non­de­script two-story grey build­ing sur­rounded by a trans­par­ent fence. It’s pos­si­ble to get pretty close to the build­ing and by the en­trance there’s a struc­ture that looks like a guard post. Ex­cept that no one pops out of the booth when strangers ap­proach to ask them to show their ID. This mod­est villa is where the leader of Law and Jus­tice (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski, lives.

Since Oc­to­ber 2015 when this con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal party won in the par­lia­men­tary elec­tion with more than 37% of the vote, this is also where the most im­por­tant Pol­ish poli­cies have been ap­proved. The sec­ond place where key pol­icy is­sues are de­cided is ul. Novohrad­ska 84, PiS

head­quar­ters. The list of lo­ca­tions where strate­gic man­age­ment of the coun­try takes place in­cludes nei­ther the pres­i­den­tial palace nor the of­fice of the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters. To­day, the govern­ment sys­tem of Poland is united and ce­mented in the per­son of Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski although, for­mally, the prop­erly demo­cratic and con­sti­tu­tional man­date be­longs, not to him, but to Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda.

Yet dur­ing the course of his first year in the pres­i­dency, Duda has un­fail­ingly car­ried out the will of the “prezes” and has gained a rep­u­ta­tion as the least in­de­pen­dent pres­i­dent in the his­tory of Poland. Duda has signed all the bills passed by the Pol­ish Sejm with­out chal­leng­ing their con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity, made the re-elected judges of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court say their vows in front of Kaczyn­ski at six in the morn­ing, and par­tic­i­pated in the re­burial of the “damned sol­dier,” Zyg­munt Szendzeliarz, who fought with the for­est brother­hood against the com­mu­nists.

The prob­lem is that these par­ti­sans also at­tacked civil­ians, in­clud­ing Lithua­ni­ans and Belarusians. To­day, the Pol­ish govern­ment is pro­mot­ing this con­tro­ver­sial his­tor­i­cal topic. The “damned sol­diers” fought not only against the ex­ter­nal com­mu­nist enemy but also with those lo­cals who were con­sid­ered traitors—a sub­ject that clearly ap­peals to the ide­ol­o­gists of his­tor­i­cal pol­icy in govern­ment and at least partly ex­plains how Kaczyn­ski him­self and his in­ner cir­cle iden­tify them­selves po­lit­i­cally. To them, the “damned sol­diers” not only fight ex­ter­nal threats but also home­grown traitors.

“Kaczyn­ski has man­aged to turn Duda into a govern­ment no­tary pub­lic,” says Jakub Ma­j­murek, a jour­nal­ist with Kry­tyka Poli­ty­czna. “What­ever propo­si­tions the pres­i­dent an­nounces are ad­justed ac­cord­ing to the party line. Some­times Duda’s speeches are more con­cil­ia­tory than those of the PiS leader, but even at the rhetor­i­cal level, the pres­i­dent can­not be called the lib­eral face of PiS. In­ter­nal fac­tions within this party are not based on ide­o­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples but on how much ac­cess they have to the govern­ment and to the ear of its leader.”

For more than two decades, Poland has moved to­wards a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in which in­sti­tu­tions stand above the per­son­al­i­ties of those in power, and not the re­verse. For in­stance, when the Na­tional Me­dia Coun­cil as an in­de­pen­dent gov­ern­ing body, fired Jacek Kurski, the head of PTV, Poland’s pub­lic tele­vi­sion com­pany, he went off to Novohrad­ska 84. Af­ter this the NMC’s chair was called on the car­pet and the de­ci­sion was sud­denly re­versed. Kurski was al­lowed to keep work­ing un­til Oc­to­ber 2016, when a com­pe­ti­tion was called to fill his post. And he was al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate as well.

On one hand, PiS is seen as a mono­lith. In pub­lic, there are no facts or even ru­mors about any kind of in­ter­nal con­flicts or bat­tles at the high­est level. The party has no “wings,” ei­ther, whether con­ser­va­tive or lib­eral. As one of the edi­tors of Gazeta Polska, Wo­j­ciech Mucha ex- plains, “You can look in vain for a lib­eral fac­tion in PiS. This party has no politi­cians who con­cern them­selves with lib­eral top­ics: abor­tion, eu­thana­sia or same-sex mar­riage. Among PiS politi­cians, there is only a dif­fer­ence in ac­cents on cer­tain top­ics.”

As a po­lit­i­cal phe­nom­e­non, Law and Jus­tice has no anal­o­gous party in Ukraine, ei­ther. Founded in 2001 by Lech Kaczyn­ski, it mostly drew politi­cians from cen­ter-right forces from the 1990s: the Chris­tian Pop­u­lar Union, the Al­liance of Right Forces and the Con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar Union. It grew as a move­ment against “cor­rup­tion, oli­garchs and theft of state as­sets” and it was these “en­e­mies” that PiS fo­cused on while it was in of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion to the rul­ing Civic Plat­form (PO). It was nei­ther the es­tab­lish­ment party nor the party of the nou­veaux riches, nor the party of al­ter­na­tive youth­ful move­ments. The essence of its right­ist ide­ol­ogy came down to build­ing a “strong Poland based on es­sen­tial Chris­tian val­ues” that could talk with Ber­lin as an equal, coun­ter­act Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sive poli­cies, and re­store the Pol­ish ver­sion of his­tor­i­cal jus­tice with re­gard to all of the most painful and con­tro­ver­sial events: from the 1943-45 tragedies in Volyn and Ha­ly­chyna to the Smolensk air crash in 2010.

Ac­cord­ingly, con­ser­va­tive politi­cians within PiS are able to choose among a va­ri­ety of the­matic plat­forms those that ap­peal to them the most. The party has ex­treme con­ser­va­tives who are pro­mot­ing their ver­sions of proper Chris­tian val­ues. The largest and most in­flu­en­tial group of of­fi­cials has made it their goal, now that they are in power, to re­store the do­mes­tic econ­omy, the Pol­ish courts, the po­lice, pub­lic me­dia, the army, the civil ser­vice, ed­u­ca­tion, and cul­ture. But not all of their restora­tive re­forms have had pos­i­tive feed­back from Brus­sels. There, some of PiS’s ap­proaches such as the hasty re­vi­sion of laws on the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, the civil ser­vice, pub­lic me­dia, and in­ter­net mon­i­tor­ing are seen as threat­en­ing democ­racy. The re­sult has been that mem­bers of the Coun­cil of Europe’s Venice Com­mis­sion have be­gun to visit War­saw more fre­quently. Among oth­ers, they have de­manded that the newly-elected govern­ment re­spect and en­force the de­ci­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tional Tri­bunal.

Be­side Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives and of­fi­cials in PiS’s ranks, there are also pop­ulists. Their ob­jec­tive is to work with the most con­ser­va­tive and rad­i­cally ori­ented el­e­ments among Pol­ish vot­ers. This is seen as nec­es­sary in or­der to pre­vent the emer­gence of rad­i­cal pop­ulist par­ties in


the style of Hun­gary’s na­tion­al­ist party, Job­bik, in Poland. So far, this has worked.

Any party such as PiS that is strictly against cor­rup­tion and the “thieves” in the ranks of its pre­de­ces­sors has to of­fer some­thing more than ex­pos­i­tory rhetoric in or­der to gain the loy­alty of vot­ers. This kind of fol­low­ing can ei­ther be bought, as is typ­i­cally done by dic­ta­tors in com­mod­ity-based au­toc­ra­cies like Uzbek­istan, or it can be at­tracted by moral ar­gu­ments com­bined with ef­fec­tive so­cio-eco­nomic poli­cies. For Poland, only the sec­ond op­tion is a vi­able path­way. Thus, the pre­vi­ous and cur­rent ac­tions of PiS are be­ing scru­ti­nized un­der a mi­cro­scope by a lib­eral press that is ex­tremely crit­i­cal of the rul­ing party. In­deed, the heat­ed­ness of the crit­i­cism some­times comes to a boil, with Pol­ish jour­nal­ists talk­ing about an in­tel­lec­tual and ver­bal “civil war” be­tween the con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral camps.

When PiS re­turned to power, it was able to avoid high-pro­file cor­rup­tion scan­dals. Kaczyn­ski’s home in Zoli­borz can, to some ex­tent, be seen as a metaphor for Poland’s cur­rent rul­ing elite and a moral ar­gu­ment: it con­sists pre­dom­i­nantly of peo­ple of mod­est means. They can­not even imag­ine them­selves the range of un­writ­ten priv­i­leges and pref­er­ences that con­tinue to be used, in cir­cum­ven­tion and vi­o­la­tion of the law, by those in power in Ukraine to­day.

Which is not to say that PiS has man­aged to com­pletely avoid any hint of scan­dal over the past year. Adam Mich­nik’s lib­eral-lean­ing Gazeta Wy­bor­cza pub­lished an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the links be­tween cur­rent De­fense Min­is­ter An­toni Macierewycz and Robert Luś­nia, a se­cret ser­vice agent from com­mu­nist times. The lus­tra­tion court has shown that the lat­ter was spy­ing on his col­leagues in the Youth Move­ment of Poland and the In­de­pen­dent Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion dur­ing the 1980s. When the court handed down its rul­ing, Lusznja was the Sejm am­bas­sador of that same po­lit­i­cal group as Macierewycz, the Catholic Na­tional Move­ment. Macierewycz ejected Lusznja in his par­lia­men­tary fac­tion, but not out of the party. The years passed and now it turns out that the cur­rent Min­is­ter of De­fense is part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Glos, whose leader is none other than Robert Lusznja. Gazeta Wy­bor­cza jour­nal­ists were able to show that, back in the 1990s, peo­ple who knew this politi­cian and busi­ness­man had al­ready sus­pected him of ties with the se­cret po­lice. Macierewycz, on the other hand, claimed that he was not aware of any­thing of this na­ture in the past of his col­league of many years un­til the lus­tra­tion court ex­posed the facts.

An­toni Macierewycz is not only the au­thor of an al­ter­nate in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Smolensk catas­tro­phe that is sup­posed to prove, once and for all, that it was no ac­ci­dent, he is also the ide­olog of the cult of “Smolensk mar­tyrs.” Thus, on the an­niver­sary of the War­saw Up­ris­ing of 1944, he pro­posed read­ing out the list of those Pol­ish politi­cians who were died out­side Smolensk. This was sup­posed to place the deaths of the Pol­ish elite in Rus­sia with the in­sur­rec­tion­ists of the Ar­mia Kra­jowa who fought the Nazis, to re­store a non-com­mu­nist Poland. It was at that point that Pol­ish traitors switched sides to the soviet com­mu­nists and waited for their mo­ment to en­ter War­saw in the col­umns of the Red Army. Ac­cord­ing to this in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his­tory, the death of Poland’s pa­tri­otic elite in the Rus­sian forests was also con­ve­nient, not just for the Krem­lin but to Poland’s own de­fec­tors. And now it seems that the main na­tional fighter against traitors has spent years do­ing business with one of them. Many Poles don’t un­der­stand why Kaczyn­ski continues to keep the odi­ous Macierewycz in the de­fense post.

But this is not the end of it. Among the clos­est ad­vi­sors of the PiS leader are other “in­ter­est­ing” in­di­vid­u­als. For in­stance, his clos­est brother-at-arms since the very be­gin­ning of Pol­ish trans­for­ma­tion in­clude Adam Lip­in­ski, the head of the po­lit­i­cal of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter; Joachim Brudzin­ski, deputy speaker of the Sejm; Marek Kuchczyn­ski, speaker of the Sejm; and Mar­iusz Blaszczak, In­te­rior Min­is­ter. They are called the “Com­mon Ground Cen­ter” group, the one-time party of Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski that


was elected to the Sejm in the 1990s. Apart from them, the pro­fes­so­rial du­umvi­rate of Min­is­ter of Cul­ture and Na­tional Her­itage Piotr Glin­ski and Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Jaroslaw Gowin are fol­low­ing their own po­lit­i­cal path. Gowin, in­ci­den­tally, was once part of the Civic Plat­form.

Yet another cen­ter of power has been formed around the Special Forces co­or­di­na­tor, Mar­iusz Kamin­ski. Although there is no for­mal lib­eral group­ing in the rul­ing elite, ne­olib­eral ideas are be­ing pro­moted by the in­flu­en­tial Min­is­ter of De­vel­op­ment and a banker by pro­fes­sion, Ma­teusz Mo­raw­iecki. This 48-year-old politi­cian, to­gether with 46-year-old Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Zbig­niew Zio­bro are seen as po­ten­tial re­place­ments for the 67-yearold Kaczyn­ski as the next PiS leader.

But for now, the PiS boss holds the reins of power and lever­age tightly in his hands. And all this is as it should be in a boss-based party like PiS, says Marek Troszczyn­ski, a Pol­ish po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and so­ci­ol­o­gist from Col­legium Civ­i­tas.

For most Poles, the “four-handed pi­ano play­ing” of Kaczyn­ski and Duda is quite ac­cept­able for now. Ac­cord­ing to an Au­gust poll by the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Opin­ion Re­search, the pres­i­dent is cur­rently sup­ported by 64% of Pol­ish vot­ers and Kaczyn­ski by 47%. What’s more, the rat­ings of the PiS lead­ers are rising, leav­ing them with a firm carte-blanche to carry on their poli­cies.

A shift? For decades, Poland has been mov­ing to­wards a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in which in­sti­tu­tions stand above per­son­al­i­ties. To­day, this prin­ci­ple is not en­tirely in­vi­o­lable

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