How the Polish right-wing party “Law and Justice” plans to win

From Hungary to Turkey, strong, democratically-elected parties have used their control over the legislature to change their constitutions and other rules of the game in ways that make it hard to remove the incumbent party from power. If PiS secures a supermajority following the October 13 elections, it could supercharge democratic backsliding in Poland. PiS has already taken steps that signal the party’s intent to consolidate power and entrench its conservative vision for Poland. In 2017, Poland reformed its judiciary by removing forty percent of judges from the court, lowering the retirement age, and putting more control of the judiciary’s selection process in the executive branch. These efforts were met with resistance not just from domestic opposition, but also from the European Union (EU). The EU took Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for threatening judiciary independence, and the ECJ ruled that Poland infringed upon EU law with its judiciary reforms. While securing a supermajority would not overturn the ECJ’s ruling, a supermajority would make it easier for PiS to change Poland’s constitution and dismantle democracy. PiS still has its eye on a supermajority and is trying every trick in the book to prevent the opposition from being successful.

PiS is trying to make it impossible for opposition parties to meet the eight percent voter threshold required to earn representation in the Sejm. Recent reports allege that PiS purchased surveillance technology from Israel that would allow PiS to spy on, and target, political opponents and journalists. PiS is also aiming to expand their electorate by courting rural and city voters. The People’ Party (PSL) has continued to lose rural areas to PiS, and rural voters stand to gain from PiS’s welfare policies, including the “500 Plus” child benefit. Given the recent success of green parties in the European Parliamentary elections, PiS has incorporated environmental issues into its platform in order to appeal to more liberal voters. PiS’s best shot at reaching a supermajority requires them to chip away at support for other parties, including PSL or liberal party coalitions.

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