REVIEW #4: Radicalism, Populism or Nationalism? All Three in One


The new Polish right-wing government is often labelled as nationalistic, populistic and radical. However it tries to reject this epithets, they are all true.

The “good change” is a political slogan of the Law and Justice government that marks the major shift that has recently been introduced in Poland. Figuratively put, it is sometimes described as an attempt to “bite a sleeping bison’s butt”. In this metaphore of Jarosław Rymkiewicz, a controversial Polish poet, Poland is a sluggish bison and Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party and the grey eminence of the government, a hero capable of waking the majestic animal up and forcing it to run in a much desired direction. It takes a man to bite a bison and this deed is obviously an example of radical, showy and nationalistic behavior (bison is one of the Polish national symbols). The presented article is an attempt to prove that the same diagnosis applies to the infamous “good change” currently being introduced in Poland – a change which shall be deemed as a mix of radicalism, populism and nationalism, accompanied by wishful-thinking and conspiracy theories spread by the ruling party. Sounds like a lethal mixture? It sure does!


The most radical move of the current Polish government so far was an attempt to change the constitutional foundation of the state. Law and Justice does not have such a majority in the Polish Parliament (Sejm) that would allow the party to enact a new constitution or modify the current one without strucking with opposition a deal that would enable doing so. In theory, they may have had attempted to trick the opposition and convene the voting by surprise, when many of opposing MPs had been outside of the parliament, but this way would be both risky and difficult. This is precisely why Law and Justice decided to paralyse the Constitutional Court instead – as it is the only institution in the Polish system that can block any unconstitutional laws.

Polish Constitutional Court has recently been dominated by judges appointed during former parliament’s term and that has served as a pretext to introduce the “good change”. First, President Andrzej Duda unprecedentedly refused to administer the oath of three judges nominated by the former parliament. Instead, he swore in five judges elected by the new parliament during the “blitzkrieg” procedure, implement regardless of negative opinions of lawyers, with neither proper consultation process, nor a possibility of interviewing the new candidates. Secondly, when the Constitutional Court confirmed that the three judges elected by the former parliament are full members of the court even without the presidential permission, Andrzej Duda simply ignored the verdict and his party started another parliamentary express procedure to change the law that regulates the way the Constitutional Court operates.

The new law aims to paralyse the Court (it for example requires judging cases in chronological order, what gives the government a possibility to fill court’s agenda with hundreds of trivial cases and delay important cases which will have to wait in the queue even in the case of a radical attack on the constitutional order and rule of law) and refused the right to assess its legality. That escalated the constitutional conflict and forced the Polish government to explain itself in European Union and the Council of Europe. Despite all this, the law was implemented with no delay. In the end, the conflict with the Constitutional Court prepared the ground for other radical and possibly unconstitutional changes.

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