Skip to main content

sierakowski42_MateuszWlodarczykNurPhotoviaGettyImages_PiSleaderlaughingintohand Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Teflon Populism

Since coming to power in 2015, Poland's populist Law and Justice party has chalked up repeated scandals and proven to be utterly unworthy of the public's trust. Yet, by disbursing handouts to key constituencies, debasing the country's public discourse, and co-opting the prosecutor's office, it has escaped accountability.

WARSAW – Populist rule is invariably associated with corruption, nepotism, and incompetence. Why, then, do populists appear immune to scandal? Revelations that would have shocked electorates just a few years ago leave nary a mark on populist leaders and government ministers. And, sometimes, what doesn’t kill them even seems to make them stronger.

Examples are legion. When Der Spiegel reported that the far-right Alternative für Deutschland had misappropriated funds, the party’s supporters could not have cared less. When the same publication unearthed a video of Austria’s now-former vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, negotiating a quid pro quo with a Russian interlocutor, his far-right Freedom Party lost only a couple of percentage points in the polls, and probably only temporarily. Likewise, the parties of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán continue to dominate their countries’ politics, despite repeated corruption scandals.

But the most scandal-proof populist of all is Poland’s de facto ruler, Jarosław Kaczyński. Independent Polish media outlets have revealed new affairs involving Kaczyński and his Law and Justice (PiS) party practically on a weekly basis – all of them damning.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/s7tzqiT;
  1. reinhart39_ Sha HantingChina News ServiceVisual China Group via Getty Images_jerome powell Sha Hanting/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images

    Jerome Powell’s Dilemma

    Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart

    There is a reason that the US Federal Reserve chair often has a haunted look. Probably to his deep and never-to-be-expressed frustration, the Fed is setting monetary policy in a way that increases the likelihood that President Donald Trump will be reelected next year.

    2
  2. mallochbrown10_ANDREW MILLIGANAFPGetty Images_boris johnson cow Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

    Brexit House of Cards

    Mark Malloch-Brown

    Following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament, and an appeals court ruling declaring that act unlawful, the United Kingdom finds itself in a state of political frenzy. With rational decision-making having become all but impossible, any new political agreement that emerges is likely to be both temporary and deeply flawed.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions