Response to Akbar Shahid Ahmed’s January 14, 2023 article in the Huffington Post – “Poland Poses The Next Test For Global Democracy — Along The World’s Most Dangerous Border.”
The narrative of “backsliding in democracy” and that the current Polish government poses some kind of threat to democratic governance has been pushed by its opponents for close to eight years now and while it produces a nice soundbite it is nowhere near the reality. Here are some facts. In 2015 the current ruling party PiS won the parliamentary elections by getting 5.7 million votes. In 2019 PiS won the parliamentary elections again by with 8 million votes. Andrzej Duda, the current president and the candidate of the PiS party, won the election in 2015 with 8.6 million votes. He secured the re-election in 2020 with 10.4 million votes. The pattern here is clear. PiS is not only the party that has the largest support among the Polish voters, but the policies it pursued led to a large increase in support after the first term of its rule. This shows clearly that a large part of the Polish electorate unequivocally supports the policies pursued by the government. Is it not that the essence of democracy? Even today, after eight years of rule that encompassed navigating Poland through the COVID pandemic, dire economic issues and now facing the consequences of Russian invasion of Ukraine, PiS still, by far, has the largest support among the Polish population according to current opinion polls. Are we to assume that the author believes 40 percent of Polish population to be inherently opposed to democracy? Or is it that being culturally traditional, Catholic and having views not completely in step with the dominant politically correct vision of “democratic” society is in itself an issue? Those of us that remember communism fret a discourse in which democracy is qualified by an adjective. A ”liberal” democracy suggests that there is a limit to full democracy qualified by an adjective. As a reminder before 1989 no Communist country admitted to be communist or not democratic. All of these countries styled themselves to be “people’s democracies”. All of those “people’s democracies” were totalitarian governments. Are we to assume that former supporters of “people’s democracies” have now evolved into supporters of “liberal democracies?” I think this question is valid when the author sources his attack on the current Polish government by interviewing people like Dariusz Rosati who from 1962 until 1989 was active in Polish Communist Party including holding a position of first secretary of the party unit at the Warsaw School of Economics from 1981 to 1985. Should former Communist apparatchiks really be judges of what true democracy is?
Poland is not evolving into an autocracy under the PiS government and no one ever should buy into that discourse. It is the PiS government that is at the forefront of supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion. It is Poland that serves as the main hub for millions of Ukrainian refugees, who found nothing but welcome and a helpful hand in Poland. It is Poland that serves as the main conduit for sending military aid to Ukraine strongly leading the effort by providing large amount of its own military equipment while also using its influence to press Western governments to provide more aid. The Polish government leads the West against the Russian totalitarian menace. Articles warning of a possibility that Poland would degenerate into autocracy under the current PiS government are complete nonsense. It is a time to give the Polish government full support and recognize it as a leader of pro-democratic countries helping Ukraine fight the Russian invader. If we truly care about democracy at the core is tolerance of alternative political views. It is a fact that the PiS government is mainly supported by conservative, traditional, religious voters. Their political views deserve tolerance just as all alternatives. And if the parties those voters cast their vote for win elections that result has to be respected not branded as “backsliding of democracy.“