Political Change

Poland's Solidarity Goes Up in Smoke

Polish demonstrators TUS ZMIJEWSKI-dpa
Protests are on the rise in Poland.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Poland is a key part of eastern Europe and its new government’s determination to alter its constitution will have implications for its smaller neighbors.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Poland’s new government, under Prime Minister Beata Szydło, has already enacted new laws to tax banks and foreign-owned supermarkets more heavily.
    • A draconian law “to protect Poland’s reputation” is also in the works.
    • The government has purposely embarked on a radical departure from the policies of the two previous administrations, and from the nepotism and corruption associated with them
  • Audio

    Audio

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On a recent Saturday in Warsaw, tens of thousands had taken to the streets. “Stop the bloodbath against democracy,” read one sign and another: “Everyone must uphold the constitution. EVERYONE!” The words “PISs OFF!” were printed on one protestor’s sign, in reference to the ruling Law and Justice Party, which is abbreviated PiS.

“This party is destroying everything we have built for ourselves in the last 20 years,” said Justyna Scibiorek-Wilewska, angrily shaking her head while scrolling through news and images from the last few days. The 31-year-old is not an anxious type. She runs a company, is a young mother and the breadwinner in her family. But her government’s policies do not inspire her with confidence. “You never know what will come next,” she said.

It began with the conflict over the constitutional tribunal, which has now escalated. Poland’s highest court declared as unconstitutional a law enacted by the PiS government regulate precisely that court. But the government has refused to recognize the court’s verdict. It argues that the court did not abide by the new regulations in reaching its verdict – precisely the regulations the court views as unconstitutional.

European Union legal experts also believe the regulations pose a threat to the constitutional state. Although the European Commission is waiting until after Easter to decide whether it will call on Poland to amend the regulations, the case is already unprecedented.

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