By Mark Turon,
International News Writer
With Ukraine fighting against Russia for nearly two years, it seems as though Eastern Europe would focus on solving the conflict in Ukraine. However, internal problems have arisen in Poland that are not a result of the global powerhouse next door, Russia.
In May 2015, Polish citizens went out to cast their votes for the next president. In a fully democratic election, Poland elected Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice party (PiS) over the incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski. Another democratic election resulted in a victory for Andrzej Duda.
What, then, is the big problem?
Move forward to January 2016, when President Andrzej Duda signed a highly controversial law that handed control of the media over to the government while journalists marched through the capitol and beyond denouncing it.
The new law, which was drafted in December 2015, terminated the managers of the Polish TV and radio stations while giving the Treasury ministry the power to appoint people into positions for TV and radio.
As EU members criticized Poland over this new law, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro stepped forward and announced his disbelief and total astonishment at the criticisms from abroad.
It doesn’t stop there. Poland’s leading conservative party, PiS, changed the way Poland’s Constitutional Court determines rulings. In prior years, rulings were passed as long as they had a simple majority over the opposition, but the new law now requires a two-thirds majority to be reached among thirteen judges, as opposed to nine.
To counter the new ruling, thousands of people marched across Warsaw and other major cities to protest what they call a degradation of democracy in Poland.
Reacting to criticism lead by European parliamentary president Martin Schulz, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo refused to back down, and even demanded an apology from Schulz for his comments.
So what does this mean for the former member of the Soviet-bloc? History appears to be repeating itself, but this time there’s no Soviet influence involved.
As far as we know, Vladimir Putin is not commanding Poland through President Duda. There is a heavy influence from PiS chairman, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose twin brother, Lech Kaczynski, died in the Smolensk Air disaster in 2010.
Although Polish conservatives will say that, for once, Poland is doing what is best for itself, this doesn’t stop people like Mateusz Kijowski, who founded the “Committee for the Defense of Democracy” in hopes of deterring the alleged return decline into a communist state.
As the government and its people engage each other, there is no dialogue between the two sides.
On March 4, 2016 The Wall Street Journal published an article stating that the US had entered the arena with Poland by demanding that the government comply with the regulations and revert back to the democratic system of years prior.
If Poland refuses to reset this political decline, it could see its ties with the US diminish, which entitles a scale back of NATO forces stationed in Poland as fears of a future military engagement with Russia continue to escalate more than ever before.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Stillman Exchange publication.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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