When I said in my interviews two years ago that the Law and Justice party (PiS) was a threat to democracy, many journalists took the position of symmetry and, in a mocking tone, asked me whether democracy was coming to an end. I replied at the time that democracy would not end in one day, explaining that it was a process that PiS had just begun. But today I have very bad news for you: yes, this is the end of democracy in Poland. If yesterday was the parliamentary elections of 2015, when the votes of Poles began this process, then today is the middle, and tomorrow (the parliamentary elections 2019), may end with the death of the free Republic of Poland as we know it.
If we lose, we will win anyway.
Such a point of view is often expressed, in internal conversations, by PiS politicians such as Joachim Brudziński, perceived as Jarosław Kaczyński’s most faithful soldiers and a successor to the throne. Can the Law and Justice party falsify the elections? This may be the case, and as the opposition we must today answer the most important questions, in my opinion, about the future of democracy in Poland, about Poland’s presence in the EU, about the free functioning of opposition parties and about the real existence of tri-partite division of power.
Fraud will not be carried out at electoral ballot boxes, there is too much risk of falling into disrepute in the eyes of a world which is becoming less and less concerned with the opinion of Law and Justice politicians, but which is nevertheless important for preserving the appearances of democracy. If they want to commit fraud, they will simply change the results in the protocols at the District Election Commissions when it comes to announcing the final results of the election.
I often hear from my colleagues on the opposition benches that such things are impossible, that it is too difficult. I heard the same thing when the Law and Justice party prepared the introduction of its people to the Constitutional Tribunal and the National Court Register, when it ordered the repetition of votes lost on committees, when it paid itself undue bonuses and when, contrary to political logic and law, it shortened the terms of office of judges of the Supreme Court, enshrined directly in the Constitution.
If we are deluding ourselves into thinking that we can stop Law and Justice from electoral fraud by some kind holy intervention, let us remember that the teachings of Pope Francis are not welcome in Poland. I would just like to remind us all that the Gospel should come before the Constitution, and not the other way round, as Archbishop Wacław Depo said a few weeks ago during his homily. None of the prominent hierarchs of the church disagreed with his words. And so the Law and Justice party got additional support and a kind of alibi from the church to doing evil.
Let Hungary be a warning
In April’s parliamentary elections in Hungary, the electoral coalition of Fidesz-KDNP won a decisive victory, winning almost 50 per cent of votes, which translated into 133 seats in the 199-seat parliament and gave Viktor Orbán a constitutional majority of two thirds of the votes. This is what PiS wants.
Close or take over private media, which sees the changes being made in Poland very differently from the Göebbels-like propaganda of Jacek Kurski’s state TV (TVP) and the public media. Amend the law on parliamentary elections so as to maximise the chances of the Law and Justice party at the expense of the antagonised and still dispersed opposition. Dismantle stubborn institutions which could possibly prevent Law and Justice from legalising fraudulent elections. Not possible? It happened in the case of the Constitutional Court and the National Council of the Judiciary and it is now happening in the case of the Supreme Court.
Together against Law and Justice (even together with Together)
The examples of Hungary, and even Poland’s own Labour Union from the late 1990s and the early 2000s show all too clearly that consolidation gives politics a synergy that turns into electoral success. I am a dogmatic opponent of the Trotskyist-Marxist demands of the Together party (Adam Zandberg’s Partia Razem), with their flagship project of a 75 per cent tax for Poles earning over 500,000 złoty. But they also want Poland to remain a member of the EU, to maintain the division of powers, to make the Constitution the most important legal act in the Republic of Poland, and to make the Catholic church dominant in the sphere of the sacred, leaving secular matters to the state. There is a good argument for fighting together with all other opposition parties.
Citizens’ Coalition with the Left
The fact that Grzegorz Schetyna (leader of Civic Platform), Katarzyna Lubnauer (leader of Modern / Nowoczesna) and Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz (leader of the Polish People’s Party) will reach an electoral agreement before the parliamentary elections is probably already obvious to any political observer, but it is not enough. In order to win these elections and prevent the temptation of fraud that Joachim Brudziński (minister of the interior and administration), Zbigniew Ziobro (minister of justice) and company may want to commit, will take a rebellion from the entire opposition. Full consolidation, contrary to many internal programmatic contradictions, and a clear message to Poles that Law and Justice is an evil that must be overcome despite the mutual animosities and ambitions of opposition leaders. A new left is very much needed in Poland: a modern left, such as the British Labour Party. And create it with the leaders of the Left — Wlodzimierz Czarzasty and Robert Biedroń, Adrian Zandberg and Barbara Nowacka. This is not the time for small-mindedness. If you think that we will defeat the Law and Justice party in real terms by taking 20 per cent of the vote in combination with even a 30 per cent result for the Citizens’ Coalition of Civic Platform and the Modern Party, then I would like to bring you back down to earth. They are cheating on us and on other Poles. They will simply falsify the elections by telling voters and the world that it was they who won and that our support was just a premature manipulation on the opposition’s exit poll results. If we achieve together, as one list, 50 per cent of the voters’ support, we will win. They will not dare to deceive themselves so brightly and boldly, they know that it would end in bloodshed on the streets of Polish towns and cities.
Freedom has only a beginning. That is why it so often ends
There are few nations in the world that have been slaughtered as a result of such betrayals as the Targowica Confederation or decisions by their allies, such as those at the Yalta Conference, who surrendered their partners to the clutches of their enemies. But we Poles have already experienced such things and we already know how and why it is happening. Today, we still have the chance to decide about our own destiny and, while this sounds pompous, we as a nation must rise to the challenge of defending our rights and freedoms. And we must clearly tell ourselves and the Poles that it is the wisdom and size (or rather the lack of minority) of all politicians of today’s and tomorrow’s opposition parties that determine whether we will be able to do so. Freedom is the right to difference, if we lose, our differences will no longer be significant, because there will be no freedom that could allow us to differ.
In addition, I believe that the Law and Justice party should be banned.
The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.