The Polish administration was vindicated when US President Joe Biden arrived in February, his second visit in less than a year. Despite claims that its administration is weakening democracy and the rule of law, Poland remained a critical ally.
Poland, a significant NATO member on the eastern border, has always been a vital partner for the US and its Western allies, but when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, its importance increased.
“Poland has been one of Ukraine’s strongest allies internationally, it’s been the main hub for supplying arms to Ukraine, but it’s also receiving refugees from Ukraine,” said University of Sussex politics professor Aleks Szczerbiak.
“The United States, the Biden administration, which has been very critical of the Law and Justice government, has basically decided that Poland is the linchpin to regional security and therefore it has kind of shifted, it has put its ideological concerns on the back burner, and it’s shifted to a very close working relationship with Poland,” he said.
This new importance puts Poland’s European allies in a difficult position: they need Poland’s full commitment and support, but they also need to confront the fact that its government continues to attack judicial independence, press freedom, democratic principles, and women’s and minorities’ rights.
“Last year’s issues remain. “Of course, the broader geopolitical situation has changed and Poland act as an important partner, but its internal problems with the justice system remain the same,” said Agnieszka Kubal, an associate professor at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London.
“My worst-case scenario is that Poland gets away with democratic backsliding because it hosts Ukrainian refugees,” she said.
Poland is conducting close legislative elections this fall.
Law and Justice is still trailing Civic Platform. Since 2014, the party has ruled. Polish post-Communist history has never seen a third term.
Foreign blows continue. On Monday, the EU’s top court urged Poland to modify its judicial reforms or face heavy fines.
On Wednesday, the European Commission sued Poland over a new law creating a special commission to investigate Russian interference in Polish politics. The Commission warned the bill breaches democracy and might suppress resistance. The US State Department said the measure “could be used to block the candidacy of opposition politicians without due process.”
The investigation will examine whether the previous government allowed Poland to grow excessively dependent on Russian gas. Law & Justice argues that Poland’s gas dependency harms its interests. Critics say the administration is trying to topple Donald Tusk, its biggest political opponent.
Between 2007 through 2014, Civic Platform leader Tusk was Poland’s prime minister
The law’s investigating committee is made up of mostly pro-government MPs who may prohibit persons from public office for 10 years.
After significant criticism, President Andrzej Duda stated the bill will be revised and assessed by the Constitutional Court, which may take months.
“Accusing a Pole of being influenced by Russia is political suicide. “Especially now that Russia is invading Ukraine,” Kubal told CNN. “I can see the commission’s work on front pages in six months. “Of course, it will affect the campaign,” she said.
On Sunday, the 34th anniversary of Poland’s first postwar democratic election, Warsaw protested the new law. Hundreds of thousands protested the new law, the judicial reform, the government’s homophobic and anti-abortion policies, and its frequent disputes with the EU.
Tusk spearheaded the enormous protest to test the opposition’s capacity to defeat Law and Justice.
Szczerbiak suggested it may be an omen. “People switching sides will not decide this election. “The key is to mobilize your own side and the kind of messages that you send to get your own side [mobilized] are different from if you’re trying to win over center ground voters,” he added.
I expect a bare-knuckle fight. If democracy is at danger, you’re more inclined to vote than if you think the world won’t end if you don’t.”