The defeat of the Kaczyński twins’ Law and Justice Party (PiS) in Poland brought sighs of relief across Europe. But, as Donald Tusk’s new government assumes office it is important to learn the lessons that their defeat holds for all of us.
Many governments waste good economic times by postponing the reforms needed to build a prosperous future. The PiS-led government, elected in 2005, inherited a fast-growing economy, but did nothing to strengthen that legacy. Instead, privatization was blocked, while fiscal reforms and deregulation remained paper proposals.
Indeed, the Kaczyński government embarked on a program of anti-reform. The separation of powers (an independent judiciary and central bank) was undermined in favor of a “strong” state. The PiS captured the public media, the general prosecutor’s office was politicized, and, with the use of the media, was turned into a tool of party propaganda aimed at showing that Poland was ruled by malicious hidden forces, known as the układ , which cheated Poles and kept them poor.
Anyone who disagreed with this diagnosis or criticized the PiS’s methods, particularly those used by its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, was promptly classified as belonging to the układ . No one was spared. Indeed, Lech Wałęsa and Władysław Bartoszewski, the Polish Mandela, were ruthlessly attacked.