The World Today for June 12, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

Settlement of Evil

POLAND

A mile-long mass of hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Warsaw, the capital of Poland, recently. The demonstration wasn’t only to mark the 34th anniversary of the country’s first democratic election after the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. As Reuters explained, the protest was also against the governing Law and Justice Party.

The former Polish president and leader of the famed Solidarity Movement that helped bring the Soviet empire to its knees, Lech Walesa, marched in the demonstration. So did former Polish prime minister and former president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who is now the leader of the opposition party Civic Platform.

“We are going to these elections to win and to right human wrongs,” said Tusk in a speech to the gathering, according to Voice of America. “I promise you victory, a settlement of evil, compensation for human wrongs and reconciliation among Poles.”

Tusk was referring to how the Law and Justice Party of President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is an illiberal, nationalist party that has amassed near-authoritarian power since its leaders took government in 2015.

Ironically, at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin has become the exemplar for autocrats on the global stage and the invasion of Ukraine has raised the specter of war with NATO, Poland’s authoritarianism now seems relatively benign, the New York Times argued in an op-ed.

The Law and Justice Party resorts to “wiretapping, denigration,” and “outright lies” on the campaign trail. Electoral laws favor incumbents. State agencies designed to root out Russian influence also tend to focus on opposition figures. As the Associated Press noted, the government has also compromised the judicial system, foreclosing help from the courts in removing the party from power.

Morawiecki enacted a law that could disqualify Tusk from running for elections expected to be held in October, for example, on allegations that he was pro-Russia because he sought to improve relations with Moscow when he was prime minister, wrote the Washington Post. Tusk allegedly made Poland dependent on Russian energy imports, Deutsche Welle reported. The US and the European Union have criticized the new law.

Writing in the Atlantic magazine, University of Maryland historian Piotr Kosicki argued the massive demonstrations proved that Poles would not accept the “New McCarthyism” of Law and Justice. But, according to Politico, Tusk and his Civic Platform are trailing Law and Justice in the polls.

It will be a long four months on the campaign trail.

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