After eight years of conservative-nationalist power of the Law and Justice, Donald Tusk took over as head of the Polish government. The former President of the European Council announces a new romance, with a special honeymoon, with Brussels. More freedoms in smiling Poland, this is what Tusk promises. Beautiful and empty words.
It seems that among new freedoms, promises that could be actually delivered soon are civil partnerships for same-sex couples and, of course, abortion. Multiple waves of feminist mobilizations forced the liberals to think about these issues seriously, and so the corresponding projects are now debated within the new government coalition. Meanwhile, one can notice fatigue among the public, resulting from sharp polarization. The echo of former liberal mobilizations around abortion or LGBT+ rights is not audible in Polish streets.
First comes settlement of guilt and wrongs. Taking advantage of the pre-Christmas time, as well as the first days of love with Brussels and Vera Jourowa’s visit to Warsaw, Donald Tusk decided to ‘clean up’ the public media. Some of the scenes that happened next resembled the 1981 martial law. Uniformed services and lawyers, radical followers of the new government, bred for years in the liberal media, entered the headquarters of the most important media institutions of the state. All this in the week before Christmas Eve.
The new ruling majority used the institution of a resolution (!), to bypass the president and his veto power, which the majority cannot overcome, but also to bypass the media management institutions established by the Law and Justice authorities. To change them, a law would be needed, but they voted no law. Legal tricks of questionable value were used, by referring to the fact that the new Minister of Culture and National Heritage is de facto the employer-owner of public media.
All this in front of Brussels and Jourova, with Law and Justice politicians running around the corridors of the Sejm and begging her for attention to their cause. Now they were denouncing a violation of the rule of law in Poland!
Anyone who lives in Poland doesn’t laugh at the circus…
Tusk’s swift move was a nearly lethal blow to media presence of the Law and Justice, centered so far around state media outlets turned into propaganda devices. Because Jaroslaw Kaczynski was unable to build up a media environment around his own camp outside of public domain. Why? This will be, and already is, a topic of countless debates. Maybe they thought that they would rule forever? Not impossible.
The actions of Tusk and his followers were met with snap mobilizations of MPs from the Law and Justice who gathered and occupied some buildings belonging to the state media conglomerate. However, all of this was for nothing. New groups of journalists swiftly started producing new programmes using people from liberal TV outlet TVN and these studios and spaces which weren’t occupied by the MPs. Nevertheless, straight continuity of some public stations was hit hard, some of them unplugged for a couple days, or even weeks, like TVP World which is still not operating.
Blow to the President
Meanwhile, one of the courts in Warsaw ruled on the abuse of power by secret service trustees during the first Law and Justice government. Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, who are also currently opposition MPs from Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s camp.The verdict was announced before Christmas. A few years ago, by Andrzej Duda’s decision, both politicians were pardoned – when the sentences against them were not final. So the question is, whether the 2015 pardon has ever been valid? How to treat the new sentences then? No one knows.
Ewa Łętowska, one of the greatest Polish constitutionalk lawyers, says: this is where the problem begins, a problem of dual power. It all starts with the issue of ‘neo-judges’ appointed by Law and Justice after Andrzej Duda took over the presidency, who were elected after those elected by the Sejm, still in the hands of Tusk’s camp, chose ‘additional’ judges of the Constitutional Tribunal and were not sworn in by the president Duda. All this overshadowed the elections of all judges during Kaczynski’s rule, who, after eight years of rule, are now in different registers and levels of the judicial system. Thus, some chambers of the Supreme Court are penetrated by judges affiliated with Kaczyński and those who opposed the changes of the new government in 2015-2023.
All this had a huge impact on the case of Wąsik and Kamiński, highlighting the Manichean division of the Polish judicial system. At this point, some authorities, such as the Speaker of the Sejm, do not recognize some courts, and consider the judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal from 2015 to be defective… What’s next? What about all the judgments that affected citizens from 2015-2023.
There will only be more inquiries. The Supreme Court, which neither the government nor the marshal recognise, will declare in the next several days whether or not the elections to the Sejm, which selected a new administration and marshal, were legitimate. We may certainly anticipate that a resolution on this issue with a notice challenging its accuracy will be published in Monitor Polski after the Constitutional Tribunal’s decision. with no long-term or short-term responses provided.
At the moment when I am writing these words, and this is not a joke, Kaminski and Wasik were taken by the police from the Presidential Palace, while Andrzej Duda was meeting with the leader of the Belarussian democratic opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Immediately after that, a crowd of people supporting the Law and Justice gathered at the police station where both men were detained, with much more lively energy than that with which they fought for the state media.
And there are still places that are going to be exorcized by the liberals, such as: the Constitutional Court, the National Bank of Poland, the National Council of the Judiciary, the State Tribunal and so on, in every place the Law and Justice have put their people, now it is time to get rid of them. Once again, anyone who lives in Poland doesn’t laugh at the circus…
So what does the new, smiling Poland look like at the moment? Like one big and messy circus where no one knows what will happen tomorrow. Where are the promises to shorten the working week to 35 hours or even pilot 4-day working hours? Where is abortion or the issues of civil partnerships? All this is still in its infancy, and we are talking about parties that have wanted – and planned! – to rule Poland together for well over half a year. At this moment, we cannot count on any social mobilizations. The one on January 7, regarding the 31st anniversary of the abortion ban, was only a social meeting of feminist circles at most, which is currently on a downward trend, due to repeated bad moves. Today, they are not a key figure, despite huge mobilizations from years ago, mainly due to the inability to build any political platform, a vehicle that would allow them to be such a key figure for this government.
History comes full circle. Once the Civic Platform fought to defend democracy. Kaczyński is now trying to mobilize voters under the same banners.