An open letter from three former presidents and seven opposition politicians and activists, calling on the Polish people to “defend democracy” against the mandate of their democratically elected government, was splashed across the front page of the nation’s leading newspaper yesterday.
The ruling right wing, populist Law and Justice (PiS) party, who won a stunning 37.6 per cent of the vote in Poland’s 2015 parliamentary election, has now hit back.
“Poles chose Law and Justice in parliamentary elections, they chose PiS’s programme and gave us responsibility for conducting Polish affairs. This was the free choice of Poles”, asserted Prime Minister Beata Szydło, Poland Radio reports.
But perhaps the most compelling of comments came from a spokesman to the PM’s office, who said: “I advise these gentlemen to come to terms with the results of the [October 2015] election” in which PiS came to power in a landslide victory. “It’s the nation, not a few men, who decide who governs the country”.
The letter raged against “draconian laws such as the absolute prohibition of abortion”, and threatened the PiS leaders, claiming that, “those guilty of violating the Constitution shall bear responsibility.”
It had been signed by former presidents Lech Wałęsa, Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Bronisław Komorowski; by former foreign ministers including Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Radosław Sikorski; as well as former communist-era oppositionists.
The deputy Prime Minister, Piotr Gliński, was unimpressed, telling TVN24 that the language of the letter was “absurd” and that, “It is absurd to claim that democracy in Poland in under threat”, before insisting the criticism was just the “private opinion” of individuals.
The letter’s claims of constitutional erosion refer to the fact the PiS party has enacted laws that allow them to assert more power over, what they see as the ‘undemocratic’, constitutional court, and over Poland’s public broadcaster.
The party is quite open about it’s close affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, and is loudly and broadly critical of same-sex marriage, IVF and abortion.
Accordingly, they have moved in the past weeks to make Poland the only country in the European Union (EU) to completely ban abortion.
This has shocked the “democratic” sensibilities of the establishment, but the policy was clearly alluded to in their “pro-family values” manifesto, which was voted for en mass by the Polish people.
The claims in the letter chime with those of the European Parliament, who voted this month on a resolution accusing the PiS party of undermining democracy, before passing the issue along to the European Council for further action.