From Hungary to Turkey, strong, democratically-elected parties have used their control over the legislature to change their constitutions and other rules of the game in ways that make it hard to remove the incumbent party from power. If PiS secures a supermajority following the October 13 elections, it could supercharge democratic backsliding in Poland. PiS has already taken steps that signal the party’s intent to consolidate power and entrench its conservative vision for Poland. In 2017, Poland reformed its judiciary by removing forty percent of judges from the court, lowering the retirement age, and putting more control of the judiciary’s selection process in the executive branch. These efforts were met with resistance not just from domestic opposition, but also from the European Union (EU). The EU took Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for threatening judiciary independence, and the ECJ ruled that Poland infringed upon EU law with its judiciary reforms. While securing a supermajority would not overturn the ECJ’s ruling, a supermajority would make it easier for PiS to change Poland’s constitution and dismantle democracy. PiS still has its eye on a supermajority and is trying every trick in the book to prevent the opposition from being successful.
PiS is trying to make it impossible for opposition parties to meet the eight percent voter threshold required to earn representation in the Sejm. Recent reports allege that PiS purchased surveillance technology from Israel that would allow PiS to spy on, and target, political opponents and journalists. PiS is also aiming to expand their electorate by courting rural and city voters. The People’ Party (PSL) has continued to lose rural areas to PiS, and rural voters stand to gain from PiS’s welfare policies, including the “500 Plus” child benefit. Given the recent success of green parties in the European Parliamentary elections, PiS has incorporated environmental issues into its platform in order to appeal to more liberal voters. PiS’s best shot at reaching a supermajority requires them to chip away at support for other parties, including PSL or liberal party coalitions.
Read the full article in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.
More from CNAS
CommentaryHow Hungary’s Orban Puts Democratic Tools to Authoritarian Use
In his visit to the White House last month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who proudly describes himself as an illiberal democrat, did what every good populist does: H...
By Carisa Nietsche
CommentaryThe 5G Future Is Not Just About Huawei
This week, representatives from the United States and more than 30 European Union and NATO countries met in Prague to hash out security principles for 5G—fifth-generation wire...
By Kara Frederick
CommentaryWhy the fragmentation of European politics could bode poorly for democracy
After last week’s elections, the European Parliament is more fragmented than ever — growing discontent with the mainstream meant that centrist and mainstream parties took a be...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Erica Frantz & Joseph Wright
PodcastCeleste Wallander on Ukraine
Celeste Wallander, President and CEO of the U.S. Russia Foundation, joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss Russian operations in Ukraine and the U.S. response...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Celeste Wallander