Is Poland Shifting Away from Democracy?

By Shannon Togawa Mercer

Poland’s new president, Andrzej Duda, recently visited Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. During his visit, President Obama declined to meet him, an action that gave rise to much discussion. Washington has previously expressed concern over the new government’s anti-democratic bent. American diplomats, in a visit earlier this year, conveyed to Polish government officials that they expected the new government to reverse recent moves impinging on the power of the Polish judiciary. Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to the recent creep of authoritarianism as one of Poland’s “internal challenges.” The party in power, Law and Justice, has been accused of stacking Poland’s highest court. Notable Polish TV news host, Tomasz Lis, has publically stated that any criticism against the new ultra-conservative government is unwelcome: “If you express criticism then you are the enemy and you have to be destroyed.” This course change, in a country which had taken a promising democratic turn after the Cold War, could be yet another unneeded burden on the already strained and destabilized European Union.