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Populism at the Barrel of a Gun?

WARSAW – So far, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński’s “illiberal” counterrevolution has meant cracking down on the independent judiciary, public media, and – in the case of Orbán’s government – even private universities, such as Budapest’s Central European University. But now it is apparent that even the military may be brought under the control of a single political party. In Poland, the PiS is carrying out a revolutionary reorganization of the army, the likes of which have not been seen since the imposition of communist rule.

A recent Ministry of Defense communiqué reveals the sheer scale of the changes the PiS is demanding, as well as their political underpinnings. “Minister of Defense Antoni Macierewicz has implemented wide-scale staffing changes at the highest levels in operational units, replacing officers selected by Civic Platform,” the communiqué reads. “In the General Staff, these changes encompass 90% of command positions, and 82% in the General Command.”

Kaczyński’s claim that the now-dismissed officers were connected to Civic Platform (the former ruling party) is completely groundless. After his own shocking dismissal, Mirosław Różański, General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, pointed out the absurdity: “I received my first star from President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, the second from Lech Kaczyński, and the third from Bronisław Komorowski.” Only Komorowski was with Civic Platform.

Meanwhile, Macierewicz has also barred military officers from corresponding directly with Polish President Andrzej Duda, even though the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces under the Polish constitution, and Duda has faithfully carried out all of Kaczyński’s commands.