The current rulers in Poland seem to cherry-pick regulations and constitutional mandates to suit their preferences, deciding arbitrarily which court rulings and judges to acknowledge and which to disregard. This selective approach to governance is not only problematic but also indicative of a deeper issue in the political system.
Recently, two lawyers, including Przemysław Rosati, the head of the National Bar Council, spoke on TVP Info about the release of conservative lawmakers Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik from prison following their presidential pardon. Both highlighted the real problems this chaos is causing in their daily work. Yet, both, somewhat unreflectively, blamed only the predecessors of the current rulers. Despite their support for some form of political class agreement, they seemed blind to a crucial aspect of the issue.
It’s worth considering how the approach of the previous and current governments to the state differs. This comparison can help us understand and analyze the causes of the current situation. It’s clear to any earnest observer that the predecessors had their fair share of issues, with a rather cavalier attitude toward institutions.
The difference can be succinctly described as follows: Law and Justice (PiS) appropriated the state — often brutally and dismissively toward the opposition and its supporters — but maintained a relative coherence of the system. The new government, while also appropriating the state in some aspects, primarily destroys this coherence.
One could argue with some justification that since the system was appropriated by the predecessors, radical and unconventional methods are necessary for its “de-appropriation” and subsequent subjugation.
However, while PiS’s approach did not lead to the system’s collapse, the current coalition’s methods are doing just that. From the perspective of the coalition’s goals, this may be indifferent or even beneficial, but from the state’s and ultimately its citizens’ viewpoint — even those deeply engaged in the dispute on the ruling side — the consequences could be far worse.
Once a system is severely destabilized, restoring balance is extremely difficult, and the effects will permeate our daily lives.
If state stability mattered to the politicians of the new coalition, which it apparently does not, they should be prepared for a long journey aimed at restoring institutions to their desired functions. Even if the goal were similar to PiS’s appropriation, it should be achieved through the natural progression of legal terms.
For instance, three judges from December 2015 currently sit in the Constitutional Tribunal with their terms ending this year. During this parliament, the terms of eight judges will end. Thus, the coalition could eventually gain a majority in the Tribunal without resorting to drastic measures, assuming no agreement with the president on another method of repairing the Tribunal is reached. Yes, it would take time, but it would avoid destabilizing the state.
This leads to a perhaps unpleasant but clear conclusion.
The state capture conducted by PiS is detrimental. It leads some citizens to feel like second-class citizens, alienated from their own state. The false and dangerous belief that an election victory grants the winner carte blanche is behind such actions.
However, appropriation while maintaining systemic coherence is significantly less dangerous for the state than destroying this coherence through arbitrary selection of what suits the rulers and what does not.