“You remember me as a tough politician. Because I used to be such a tough politician, and I understand the world of media. I am the guarantor, and I will know how to protect the independence of public television of the threats from the world of politics”.
Jacek Kurski, president of TVP (January 8, 2016)
The Law and Justice (PiS) party won the presidential and parliamentary elections back in 2015. For the first time after the 1989 peaceful transition, one party had the absolute majority in both the Sejm and the Senate. But for Jaroslaw Kaczynski, de jure an ordinary member of parliament, the de facto leader of the populist right-wing ruling camp in Poland, and the architect of the deep refurbishment of the country’s institutions, it was not enough. Kaczynski knew he needed more than one term to complete his revolution, to ingrain the changes in the state and society, so that (potential) future governments would not be able to reverse them.
Already in 2015 it was obvious for PiS that everything must be done to win the 2018, 2019, and 2020 elections. The first, namely the regional and the European elections, were only a prelude before the grand finale between the autumn 2019 and spring 2020, when a new parliament and a president would be chosen.
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PiS had armed itself well, with everything that the state had to offer. It took control – to a certain extent limited by popular protests, internal mobilization within the independent system, and pressure from the EU – over the judicial system. Shortly before the 2020 presidential election it managed to fill the position of the First President of the Supreme Court with its associate1.
The government has also changed the school structure and the curricula2 in order to bring up – in the long run – its own voters within the official system. In the short run, PiS politicians, its loyalists, and their families took control over state-owned companies and built an uninterrupted stream of cash to the party and its candidates.
This took place both in form of the companies’ support for initiatives ideologically close to the right-wing populists and direct transfers from forever thankful newly employed managers and directors to PiS’s electoral fund3.
1 Malgorzata Manowska was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2018. Before that, she had been the undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Justice for several months in 2007.
2Curricula focus more on domestic issues and promoting conservative values now.