There shall be a parliamentary election subsequent month in Poland. On 15 October, the incumbent Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS, or the Regulation and Justice Social gathering), headed up by Jarosław Kaczyński, shall be searching for its third consecutive time period in authorities. It gained’t be simple. PiS faces a major problem from the liberal opposition.
Little question, mainstream media within the West will inform their audiences that democracy itself is at stake in these elections. And they’ll rehearse a well-known set of accusations towards the PiS authorities, claiming that it’s ‘destroying democracy’, ‘violating the rule of legislation’, ‘persecuting minorities’ and ‘demonising migrants’.
But whereas the New York Occasions, Guardian, Der Spiegel and the remaining make loads of huge claims about PiS, they are going to be mild on the small print. For instance, they gained’t point out that PiS’s so-called assault on the unbiased judiciary can be interpreted as a reform designed to convey the Polish courts into line with their French or German counterparts. The Polish authorities needs to have the ability to exert a level of affect over the judges’ nomination course of in order to restrict the facility of an unaccountable caste of attorneys. Which is actually what occurs in France and Germany, too.
Likewise, Western media will eagerly speak of the risk the PiS authorities poses to democracy. However they gained’t go into any substantial element as to what this risk entails. And there’s a good motive for this. As a result of in actuality, democracy in Poland has hardly ever been more healthy.
Evaluate the state of affairs in Poland with that of different liberal democracies. ‘If elections may change something, they’d have been banned way back’ – that saying captures nicely folks’s sense that mainstream events in Germany or France have grow to be far too comparable to one another. That voting for them makes little distinction.
It’s not simply that many citizens really feel their events are all the identical, both. Western publics are additionally accustomed to the extra-parliamentary restrictions imposed on their democratic energy – from monetary markets dictating that ‘there isn’t a different’ in financial coverage to elitist and unelectable tribunals and courts deciding whether or not elected lawmakers’ laws can come into drive or not. And now there may be the scientific consensus round Internet Zero that politicians of all events say have to be obeyed, which additional diminishes democracy.
Briefly, Western liberal democracy lacks vitality. No surprise this method has an enormous downside convincing folks to participate in elections. In spite of everything, what’s the level of voting in case your solely selection is between numerous stripes of the identical politics? And it turns into particularly pointless if just about all of them finally find yourself in a single grand coalition, or if their most radical concepts are blocked by the courts.
The state of affairs in Poland could be very totally different. Since PiS’s first election victory in 2015, it has certainly introduced a tangible different to the mainstream politics provided by its liberal rivals. Earlier than PiS got here to energy, Polish political events tended to mimic Western Europe, pursuing neoliberal financial insurance policies alongside a broadly ‘progressive’ agenda of social modernisation. PiS provided one thing totally different and nonetheless does, even after eight years in energy. It combines left-wing financial populism with an unapologetic rejection of the liberal wokeism. And because of this, the EU institution has attacked and scapegoated it ever because it got here to energy.
Economically, PiS has delivered for the Polish folks. Poland hasn’t slipped into recession like elsewhere in Europe, wages have grown at a a lot increased price than within the West and inflation has remained below management. Politically, the PiS authorities has remained widespread, successful majorities in each election since 2015.
The successive victories could also be spectacular. However extra hanging nonetheless is the truth that the PiS retains successful amid ever rising voter turnout. Twenty years in the past, the typical voter turnout in Poland was 40 per cent for a parliamentary election and 50 per cent for a presidential election. Since PiS got here to energy, 60 per cent now end up for parliamentary elections, and almost 70 per cent for presidential elections. For subsequent month’s parliamentary election, turnout is predicted to be even increased.
It ought to be famous that voting just isn’t obligatory in Poland as it’s in some Western democracies. It’s solely voluntary. Polish voters need to vote. After lengthy feeling apathetic, they now have a way of company, a way that voting can have an effect on political life. The vast majority of Polish voters, whether or not they help PiS or not, have began believing that democracy issues.
In that sense, the Western media’s declare that ‘democracy itself is at stake’ subsequent month actually misses the purpose. Democracy in Poland has by no means been extra alive.
Rafał Woś is a Polish journalist and commentator.