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“Polish liberal-libertarian opposition tackles democracy”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Olivier Bault.

Not satisfied with having plunged Poland into a constitutional crisis by wanting to appoint 5 judges of the Constitutional Court in advance to elections that they knew lost, not satisfied to blame the conservative winners of the October elections 2015 for a takeover of the public media which it had itself practiced unscrupulously, not satisfied with constantly demanding sanctions from Brussels against its own country, now the opposition plays its trick in attempting to organize a Polish “Maidan”.

Friday night, on the pretext of a proposal to amend the Polish Parliament’s Rules of Procedure with regard to exceptionally liberal access in Poland to journalists in the Diet and Senate building and crying for the end of media freedom , some opposition MPs have begun to block the vote by the Diet of the 2017 budget and a law drastically reducing the pensions of the members of the former political police. Simple coincidence? In any case, this is not what thinks Jan Olszewski, the Prime Minister whose government was overthrown in the middle of the night in 1992 by President Lech Walesa, aka agent Bolek, and the opposition parties, to prevent the publication of the lists of politicians who had collaborated with the communist political police. For him, if the situation is different, we find the same interests that defend themselves, even if destabilizing the country. Donald Tusk was already maneuvering in 1992, and he also spoke this weekend to support his friends in the Civic Platform (PO), their former ally PSL, the agrarian party, and their liberal competitors from the Nowoczesna party, a party created before the 2015 elections to attract the votes of voters disappointed by the PO.

Some French media said that the Poles would massively take to the streets this weekend to defend democracy. To be more precise, the Polish police, which, unlike the French police, generally gives fairly accurate figures, spoke of 3,000 demonstrators before the Diet at the culminating moment. Protesters tried to prevent the PiS deputies from returning home, forcing the police to intervene to give them a passage. Another demonstration, in support of the government, was organized within a few hours on Sunday and attracted a similar number of demonstrators. To say that the Poles have taken to the streets this weekend is therefore a little exaggerated.

Polish television disrupted before and during Prime Minister’s speech

The Prime Minister intervened by making a speech on public television on Saturday evening, December 17, calling her compatriots to calm and the opposition to a less destructive attitude. Simple coincidence yet? In more than half of the Polish regions, viewers complained about problems with the reception of the public television signal on DTT. The breakdowns would have begun just before the speech of Beata Szydło, which for some is a sign that the troubles in the Diet and the escape ahead of the friends of Donald Tusk are motivated not by the regulation on access of journalists to Parliament, but by the law on pensions of former officials of the repressive services of the communist regime. This is in any case what the Conservatives think that they have accused them for 26 years of having retained a parallel power making Polish democracy all relative. The new law will limit their pensions to the average pension in Poland, about 2,000 zlotys per month (around € 435), for people who have so far benefited from pensions of up to more than 20,000 zlotys per month (around € 4,350) . It was a commitment by the PiS to redress the injustice of the democratic transition, after which the former opponents of the Solidarity trade union found themselves far worse off than their former oppressors because of the periods spent in detention and the impossibility they were made to find a decent job.

Despite the blockage of the Diet tribune, the law was voted, as was the budget. A sufficient number of deputies to ensure the quorum have indeed moved to another room, as permitted by the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Warsaw if it is impossible to use the usual room for deliberations and votes. Those who wanted to block the work of the parliament are challenging the legality of these votes and are calling for a new vote.

Both sides accuse each other of violating democratic principles and the rule of law. It does not seem, however, that Poland is moving towards a “Maïdan”, as the liberal-libertarian opposition does not enjoy much support among the population. For the past year, the PiS has remained relatively close to the level that gave it the absolute majority of seats in October 2015 (30-40% of voting intentions according to polls), and the two liberal-libertarian parties, even taken together, remain far behind (at 20-30%). The biggest demonstration organized by the “Defense Committee for Democracy” (KOD) for a year had gathered about 45,000 demonstrators, which is not enough to overthrow a government resulting from democratic elections.

Media manipulation at work

According to the Conservatives, the liberation of the liberal-libertarian opposition is also explained by the fact that the mandate of the President of the Constitutional Court was expiring these days and the PO, which had appointed him, thus losing a valuable ally in his struggle to block the PiS action, for Andrzej Rzepliński undoubtedly acted more as an opposition politician than as a judge of the Constitutional Court.

This opposition to the PiS, however, enjoys the support of the same media which already supported it against the PiS when the roles were reversed and the PO-PSL coalition was in business. Here is a small sample of the kind of manipulations these media lend themselves to excite their viewers / listeners / readers against the PiS. It is the largest continuous news channel that shows a police official explaining that, despite police intervention, there were no arrests or injuries. A shot shows at the same time a man ashore to discredit the claims of this chief of police. The rest of the film, which was not shown on TVN, shows the same man filmed from another angle who lay down on the floor and then quietly rose. This second film made the buzz on social networks, and the actor at the center of the manipulation was identified by Internet users: it is the husband of a journalist linked to an extreme left newspaper, Krytyka Polityczna, who had worked on public television before being dismissed. The scene of the man “wounded” on land was also resumed Saturday in a spot of the PO party to denounce the “police brutality”. There have been brutalities which have not taken place, and for which the PO would in any case, as in the field of media freedom, is no position to protest.

Translated by the Visegrád Post.