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Opinion: Poland has a resilient democracy

After the mass protests last weekend, opponents of the nationalist conservative government have decided to organize more demonstrations. The Poles will defend the nation's democracy, writes DW's Bartosz Dudek.

Poles are resilient people. Threatened by foreign powers for centuries, divided, occupied and enslaved, they have learned to stand up for themselves and also the freedom of other people. In the 20th century, they even performed two great feats in this field: the first time, in 1920, they stopped the Red Army advance towards Western Europe and thus prevented the spread of the Russian Revolution. The second time, between 1980 and 1989, they wisely and peacefully launched a movement that ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The establishment of a democratic nation and the ensuing economic miracle on the Vistula has become a model and a standard for other countries when it comes to taking initiative.

Now, after 26 years of success, Polish voters have made a decision that seems strange to outsiders: they chose to oust a pro-European and liberal government, even though they were able to come up with Europe's best economic statistics. Instead, they put their faith in a euroskeptic and nationalist conservative party that had promised a "good change" and major social benefits. However, only four weeks after the change of power, many Poles are already disenchanted.

The end justifies the means

According to the latest opinion polls, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's nationalist conservative party "Law and Justice" (PiS) has abruptly lost support. Many voters who trusted the mild, conciliatory, down-to-earth tone in the election campaigns of President Andrzej Duda and current Prime Minister Beata Szydlo (both PiS) are now frightened, as the pigeons have been replaced by hawks. Blinded by his landslide election victory, Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his radical entourage want to seize absolute power for themselves and their party in a reckless and confrontational manner. Despite the rule of law, the end seemingly justifies all means.

Dudek Bartosz Kommentarbild App

DW's Dudek Bartosz

Although the previous government did not always fully comply with the constitutionality of laws and ignored the opposition when filling positions in important institutions, Kaczynski's lust for power and obvious vengefulness overshadows everything else. Instead of introducing child benefits as promised, Kaczynski first declared war on the constitutional court. He defamed critics who appeared in Western media by calling them the "worst kind of Poles" and "Gestapo accomplices." That doesn't sound like a "good change."

Awakened civil society

But many will not stand idly by. In moves redolent of the 1970s and 1980s, committees for the defense of democracy have been established, as have civil society organizations using a name that refers to the legendary "Workers' Defense Committee" (KOR), ​​a precursor of the Solidarity movement. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest. Numerous public figures, such as the legendary Solidarity leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa, former President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and several former prime ministers and parliamentary presidents stand behind this movement and are calling for a peaceful defense of democracy. This is a response that shows the best traditions of the country. And there remains one great hope: no force in history has been so powerful that it could break the Polish people's desire for freedom.

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