The Law and Justice (PiS) party’s stunning victory in Poland’s October 25 parliamentary elections has left analysts wondering just how worried they should be. PiS won an absolute majority in the Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm—the first time any party has done so since 1989. Since PiS also controls the presidency (party candidate Andrzej Duda was elected in August), it has a unique opportunity to conduct a legislative revolution in Poland.
After what happened in Hungary, where a similar right-wing populist party won a super-majority and changed the constitution in ways that diminished democracy, entrenched the ruling party’s power, and enervated the IMF and foreign banks, many think something similar is possible in Poland. Indeed, there are several things to worry about.
Foremost among them is the worldview of the PiS leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. His noted suspicion of both Moscow and Brussels and track record of leading witch-hunts against domestic opponents have raised major questions about Poland’s foreign policy orientation and adherence to democratic principles. Last time Kaczynski was in power, in 2006–07, he ran afoul of Germany and the EU by fighting for disproportionate voting power for Poland in EU institutions; his argument was that if Germany hadn’t killed six million Poles between 1939 and 1945, Poland would have a far higher population. This sort of discourse offended the Germans and held up negotiations on the Treaty of Nice, which sought to move the EU toward majority voting, rather than unanimity, on a number of issues.
In the West, some of the discourse promoted by Kaczynski’s PiS party would be considered that of a fringe party. The party is closely affiliated with fringe strands of the Polish Catholic Church and the controversial independent Catholic radio station Radio Maryja, which has promoted conspiracy theories such as the concept of Judeo-communism, which essentially blames Jews for imposing communism on Poland. The show’s listeners make up a significant part of the PiS voter base, and Kaczynski has repeatedly defended it.
It is hard to think of another “conservative” party in the European Union that promotes such…