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Poland’s New Right Marches: ‘God, Honor, Fatherland’

AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski

The New York Times writes about how Poland’s new right-wing government is taking power in Poland:

WARSAW — In the few weeks since Poland’s new right-wing government took over, its leaders have alarmed the domestic opposition and moderate parties throughout Europe by taking a series of unilateral actions that one critic labeled “Putinist.”

Under their undisputed leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, they pardoned the notorious head of the security services, who was appealing a three-year sentence for abuse of his office from their previous years in power; tried to halt the production of a play they deemed “pornographic”; threatened to impose controls on the news media; and declared, repeatedly and emphatically, that they would overrule the previous government’s promise to accept refugees pouring into Europe.

But the largest flash point, so far, has been a series of questionable parliamentary maneuvers by the government and the opposition that has allowed a dispute over who should sit on the country’s powerful Constitutional Tribunal to metastasize into a full-blown constitutional crisis — with thousands of protesters from all sides taking to the streets.

Countries across Europe have seen nationalist movements rise in popularity, particularly in the wake of the refugee crisis and the terrorist attacks in Paris. But Poland’s rightward lurch under the newly empowered Law and Justice Party is unsettling what had been the region’s strongest economy and a model for the struggling post-Soviet states of Eastern Europe.

“I am very agitated and depressed,” Andrzej Zoll, a former president of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, said in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza, one of the country’s leading newspapers. “Twenty-five years of democratic Poland is coming to an end.”

On Saturday, antigovernment protesters marched peacefully through central Warsaw chanting for “democracy.” On Sunday, a pro-government “March of Freedom and Solidarity” drew a somewhat smaller crowd of peaceful participants and featured chants of “God, Honor, Fatherland” and the singing of patriotic anthems like “Let Poland Be Poland.”

At Saturday’s protest, Ryszard Petru, leader of a new opposition party called Modern, bemoaned the moves of the new government and its leader. “Kaczynski has managed to divide Poles yet again,” Mr. Petru said. “And he has done it in just one month.”

Top leaders of the Law and Justice Party — who did not respond to repeated requests for comment — describe such sentiments as overblown and insist they are only fulfilling the legitimate desires of the constituents who put them in office.

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