For Central Europe’s Illiberal Democracies, the Worst is yet to Come

Next week the Polish parliament will most likely pass a bill sponsored by the ruling Law and Justice party, introducing a total overhaul of the country’s judicial system. The tenures of all judges sitting on the Supreme Court, Poland’s highest judicial instance, will be immediately expired, while their successors will be installed by the justice minister. In other words, the members of the last judicial body standing in the way of Law and Justice eradicating tripartite division of powers and court independence will now be appointed by a politically tainted minister.

The reform is just another of many episodes in the Law and Justice’s long-standing conflict with Poland’s judiciary system and a violation of the rule of law. Practically since the day of the party’s all-out parliamentary victory in October 2015, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the PiS chairman and de facto the country’s highest authority, has declared a crusade against Polish courts and judges. Labelling them a caste, a clique held together by a network of close-knit, corrupted links, Kaczynski saw them as a relic of the past, a residue of the post-communist realm, ill-suited to – and standing in the way of – his grand project of a new, mighty, great Poland. Already in 2006, during his previous attempt at ruling the country, the PiS chairman, doctor of law himself, accused the courts of getting in the way of his reform plans – this time, no opposition was to be tolerated. And, one must admit, he wasted no time in his offensive. Soon after assuming power, PiS dismantled the Constitutional Tribunal, a body tasked with examining the compliance of the laws with the constitution. For that to happen, Kaczynski used president Duda, who by setting a precedent in the country’s democratic record, refused to swear in previously elected judges to the Tribunal and instead allowed PiS to install their own candidates ...

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