Saturday, January 09, 2016

Timothy Garton Ash on Polish authoritarianism

Timothy Garton Ash provides a comment on the seriousness of the authoritarian turn in Poland, The pillars of Poland’s democracy are being destroyed Guardian 01/02/2016. He sees the current Law and Justice (PiS) government as rushing to get it's program in place.

Garton Ash writes:

Poland, the pivotal power in post-communist central Europe, is in danger of being reduced by its recently elected ruling party to an illiberal democracy. Basic pillars of its still youthful liberal democracy, such as the constitutional court, public service broadcasters and a professional civil service, are suddenly under threat. ...

And this needs to happen soon. For the political blitzkrieg of the past two months suggests that the strategy of the Law and Justice party (known by its Polish acronym as PiS), and specifically of its one true leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, is to do the dirty work of transforming the political system rapidly, even brutally, and then to show a kinder, softer, more pragmatic face. He has the parliamentary majority to do this (although not the two thirds needed to change the constitution), still considerable popular support – and, shockingly, the president of the country is behaving like his glove puppet.

For at least 20 years Kaczyński has dreamed of what he sees as completing the anti-communist revolution of 1989, but he also knows, recalling his experience in power from 2005 to 2007, that the window of opportunity may not long be open. So he says to himself, like Macbeth, “If it were done … then ’twere well it were done quickly.” [my emphasis]
He also notes the hodgepodge ideology of the PiS, noting that its "proclaimed conservative, Catholic, Eurosceptic policies, [are] cleverly combined with an almost leftwing set of economic and welfare promises."

Garton Ash doesn't mention Angela Merkel specifically. But he notes, "The EU has also responded more sharply than it did to similar (and worse) changes in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. Tellingly, Kaczyński and Orbán met privately for five hours this week, coordinating their positions."

As I mentioned in an earlier post, expressed EU concerns over democracy in Poland may have more to do with national considerations by Merkel's government than any newfound concern on Merkel's part for the defense of democracy in the EU. Challenges to economic austerity policies, though, Merkel takes those very seriously.

It strikes me that there are similarities in timing with the authoritarian measures of the Polish government and the aggressive neoliberal economic policies being applied by Mauricio Macri's government that took office in Argentina in December.

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