Kamil Marcinkiewicz

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People walk their dogs as they pass campaign posters for Andrzej Duda, right, Poland’s incumbent president and leader of the Law and Justice party; and opposition candidate Rafal Trzaskowski in a suburb of Warsaw on June 25. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images)

Poland’s most unusual presidential campaign is finally nearing its end. The election, originally scheduled for May 10, was postponed at the last minute because of the pandemic. The first round will now take place on Sunday.

The election takes place after five years of democratic backsliding under President Andrzej Duda and his nationalistic Law and Justice (PiS) party. Among a range of illiberal policies, the party has restricted judicial independence and exerted control over public media.

But the biggest surprise in this election year was the late entry of opposition candidate Rafal Trzaskowski into the race, which has brought LGBT rights to the fore in this predominantly Catholic country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last weekend, Poland’s voters went to the polls — and delivered a divided Parliament. The controversial Law and Justice (PiS) party maintained its majority in the lower house of Parliament, the Sejm, winning the same number of seats — 235 of 460 — as in the 2015 election. However, the Senate, which had been controlled by PiS, was narrowly won by the opposition with 51 of 100 seats. That threatens PiS’s dominance, which critics believe has undermined the country’s democratic institutions.

How did the opposition manage to win control of the Senate?

Here’s how: The three main opposition parties joined in an informal alliance, specifically to oppose PiS.…  Seguir leyendo »

Poland goes to the polls this Sunday. Will the controversial Law and Justice party stay in power?

On Sunday, Poland will elect a new Parliament. Over the past four years, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has made international headlines for policies that undermine democracy. Despite this, the party is on track to remain the strongest faction in the lower house of Parliament, the Sejm. However, it’s not clear that the party will win the majority of seats.

In the 2015 election, PiS won 235 of 460 Sejm seats with only 37.58 percent of the vote. That’s because more than 16 percent of votes were cast for parties that failed to clear the minimum national electoral threshold to be seated in Parliament.…  Seguir leyendo »

Democratic elections in Poland face a new threat

The democratic backsliding in Poland continues under the leadership of the Law and Justice (PiS) government. Over the past two years, PiS has gradually stripped the judicial branch of its independence and tightened its grip over the media.

PiS has now taken aim at Poland’s election process. The Polish Senate supported the election reform bill on Dec. 21 and the lower house of the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, passed it early this morning. Now the bill will go to President Andrzej Duda for his decision.

The electoral law reform proposes a set of seemingly innocuous changes. However, two administrative reforms within the bill concerning the National Election Commission and the National Election Bureau could centralize PiS’s control over elections and further weaken democratic checks and balances in Poland.…  Seguir leyendo »

People in Warsaw on July 24 protest proposed laws that would have curtailed the judiciary’s independence. (Leszek Szymanski/European Pressphoto Agency)

On Monday morning, Polish President Andrzej Duda surprised everyone by vetoing two of three bills that would have curtailed judicial independence in Poland. Duda rejected the bill allowing the government to remove and replace Supreme Court justices, which passed both houses of parliament late last week and had prompted widespread protests. Tens of thousands of Poles across the country had engaged in daily protests as the president considered his decision over the weekend.

Most observers speculated that Duda, who aligns with the ruling Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party, would sign the bills into law. According to Article 122 of the Polish Constitution, the president has 21 days to make his decision.…  Seguir leyendo »

A group of protesters holding a flag with the Solidarity trade union logo shout slogans outside the Senate building during a debate on a bill that gives politicians influence on the nation’s top court, in Warsaw, Friday. (Alik Keplicz/AP)

A bill now in Poland’s Parliament would destroy the judicial system’s independence and authority — and it’s likely to become law. In 2015, the far-right populist Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party won both the presidential and parliamentary elections. Since then — despite public protests and international pressure — PiS’s party leader Jarosław Kaczyński has steadily passed laws that have eroded Poland’s democratic system of government. The bill now being considered would eliminate the judicial branch’s role in the system of checks and balances — and would at last consolidate political power in the executive and legislative branches.

How is it that one man, who is neither president nor prime minister, has so much control?…  Seguir leyendo »