Monday, February 28, 2011

Is Poland still a democracy?

Law and Justice (PiS) skipper Jaroslaw Kaczynski said recently that while Poland's democratic frame remains, one must seriously consider whether Poland was still a democratic country. He pointed to the "annihilation of the opposition" and the alleged liquidation of media plurality as the main reasons why democracy was being undermined. And, you know what, Kaczynski is right. Poland is indeed no longer a democracy.*

The ruling Civic Platform (PO)-Polish People's Party (PSL) coalition is clearly trying to restrict public debate. Case in point is the recent amendment of the electoral code banning political radio and TV ads in the October election campaign. PiS's TV spots are well known for being very effective and it will thus be hurt most. Media bans usually favour the incumbents, so the amendment is in a sense aimed at 'annihilating' opponents.

The PO likewise has long tried to effectively disembowel public media and take it private. Kaczynski noted that public media had seen several current affairs programs cancelled and journalists fired who asked tough questions about the government. The two big privately held TV channels and private radio stations that deal with current affairs also tend to be pro-PO and anti-PiS.

Maybe the biggest example of the PO's seeming disregard for free media was the Monday report Tomasz Arabski, head of PM Donald Tusk's office, effectively gagged a journalist from the state-owned PAP news agency at a news conference during Tusk's recent visit to Israel. A PAP journalist was going to ask the PM an uncomfortable question about compensation for prior seizures of Jewish property. The question was dropped after Arabski called the head of PAP to exert pressure.

The PO's public support has sagged of late, but it remains the only party on the political scene that caters to moderate voters. That creates, as it were, a one-party system where the only questions are whether the PO will win the autumn elections outright or who it will form a coalition with.
In sum, the PO is extremely guilty of threatening democracy. Only Jaroslaw Kaczynski and PiS are capable of returning democracy to Poland, just like when PiS ruled in 2005-07, the true honest-to-God glory years of Polish democracy.

* Lol.

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