Goddamn I didn’t want to write about the stupid Polish courts situation but I guess I have to, so here it is. One problem in trying to explain the current controversy is that it’s kind of like trying to explain the inner workings of a big bureaucracy that your’e very familiar with – there’s no way to explain it to outsiders in a way that makes any sense, especially because it doesn’t make any sense. So this will take a few posts…
Note, that a lot of the issues now actually date back to the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) the communist Soviet vassal state from 1944-89. Some of the things I’ll write about that will be very familiar to those with experience with or in a post WWII European communist country and some of it won’t.
The ruling party in Poland (Law and Justice – PiS) is run by one Jarosław Kaczyński, a political schemer without a diplomatic bone in his body. The first government led by his party (described by one political analyst as the weirdest government in Europe) collapsed in 2007 resulting in early elections and eight years under the Civic Platform (PO) party.
A big reason for this is that Kaczyński loved making deals but hates actually abiding by them. No sooner had the ink dried on an agreement with another party than he was trying to renogiate. He kept burning bridges and party leaders that tried to work with him and it got to the point there was no one left to try to make deals with. They couldn’t rule as a minority government since they’d made so many enemies so the only choice was early elections which they lost.
Kaczyński was formed in the PRL, speaks no foreign langauges that I know of and has never spent any serious time outside of Poland (very weird for an elite politician here). The main working style of the second PiS government has been a combination of welfare handouts (paying families about $125 a month for each child after the first) and trying to reform institutions into their PRL form. His entire institutional vision is a re-creation of the PRL without the lip service given to communism. Part of that is that while he is the de facto most powerful person in the country his only official position is that of backbencher (rank and file member of parliament). This is PRL style rule by party leader. Kaczyński is no longer interested in making deals, his new obsession is remote rule though unofficial channels.
The goal of the judicial reform is to bring the courts directly under party control. That’s it. Talk about democracy and references to other countries where judges are appointed by the government is essentially a smokescreen. As far as anyone can tell, the proposed reform doesn’t have the kinds of check and balances that occur in other countries, judges will serve at the pleasure of the government…. or not. No one knows because the whole bill is written in murky ambiguous language (typical here) and the whole thing has not been subject to the normal amount of debate. Some have noticed that the proposed ‘reform’ would allow party appointed judges to set aside electoral results that they don’t like, which meant that the government had to go on the defensive trying to explain how that wouldn’t happen but…. they can’t.