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Illiberal and authoritarian tendencies in Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe

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Edited By Florian Bieber, Magdalena Solska and Dane Taleski

Even though the democratic decline has been deemed a global phenomenon, the question of how it manifests itself in the postcommunist world and how it varies across different regions with divergent levels of democratic consolidation has not been sufficiently addressed yet. This book tries to fill the gap and examines the causes and nature of the deteriorating quality of democracy in Central Europe as well as the reversal or stagnation of democratization processes in Southeastern and Eastern Europe. The political elite plays a key role in initiating legislative changes that may lead to democratic backsliding. Its constant commitment to the rule of law and to the practice of selfrestraint in securing the independence of judiciary and the rights of political opposition appears hence indispensable for sustainable liberal democracy.
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5. The Politics of “Good Change” in Poland (Magdalena Solska)

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Magdalena Solska

5.  The Politics of “Good Change” in Poland

Poland has been the most puzzling case of “democratic backsliding” in recent years. Not seriously affected by the financial and economic crisis, with the population increasingly pleased with its income and housing situation, the voters granted electoral victory to a party that saw “Poland in ruin” and questioned the legitimacy of the whole postcommunist period. The main aim of this chapter is to show that the electoral success of the Law and Justice party (PiS) in 2015 did not come as a surprise but can be attributed to several, frequently overlooked, long-term and short-term causes related to the intricacies of the postcommunist system transformation and behaviour of the ruling elites. The current crisis of liberal democracy consists of several controversial policy changes affecting, above all, the working of the Constitutional Tribunal, the party’s approach to judiciary, public appointments, media, as well as the overt weakness of the parliamentary opposition. The latter contributes to the persistent popularity of the ruling party, as does the fact that the PiS-led government has actually fulfilled all its social promises so far.

Keywords: illiberal tendencies, Poland, opposition, postcommunist system transformation

Introduction

Since 1989, Central European postcommunist countries (CEE) have gone through an unprecedented but successful postcommunist system transformation towards a market economy and a consolidated democracy (see Schneider and Schmitter, 2004). Membership of NATO and the European Union was viewed as...

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