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Poland Moves Toward Authoritarianism

By C. O'Neill


The problems with the new government are serious. A power grab is taking place to illegally consolidate power in the hands of the present government. Some call it the making of a coup or the creation of a dictatorship. I think, in all fairness, we can say that the present government, headed by Donald Tusk, is headed toward authoritarianism.

 

The type of actions being taken by the new government – and the speed with which they are being taken – are striking in their blatant disregard for the law. That is why the response to the present opposition call for a demonstration, despite the cold, and being a workday, was so massive. The city of Warsaw, controlled by Tusk’s party, said that 35,000 were in attendance, the organizers of the march say there were 300,000. But since the German-owned and pro-Tusk major internet portal Onet said there were up to 120,000 persons present, I think we can safely assume there were at least 200,000. People came from all over Poland, in rented buses, and on their own. The crowd was full of normal people: they were not aggressive and did not use vulgarisms, unlike the protests that Tusk would organize in the past. Please take a look at the video taken from above in the following link. You can see the extent of the crowd – and the video does not even catch its entirety:

 

 

Parliamentary elections were held on October 15th. The then governing United Right (a coalition of the main ‘Law and Justice Party’ with the smaller ‘Sovereign Poland Party’) won the largest number of votes but the other parties together made up a majority. In keeping with tradition, the president entrusted the United Right with the task of forming a government. This proved not possible and on December 13th, in the morning, he swore in Donald Tusk, head of the Civic Platform party and the former president of the EU’s European Council, as prime minister. I saw the bus, with his ministers, returning from the presidential palace, on my way there that same day. After I was decorated, along with others, we had a meal and the president, being the gentleman he is, came over and spoke with each of us and stayed for over an hour until almost all of us had left. I told President Duda ‘Thank God you are here’ seeing him as the only firewall Poland presently had.


Plenary Hall of the Sejm By Adrian Grycuk - own work - License CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

 

Those were prophetic words.

 

Tusk’s government is running roughshod over democracy and it is only the beginning. And only the president is in Tusk’s way. Tusk knows that he does not have a majority to overrule a presidential veto. One of the ways he has decided to overcome this is by having the parliament pass resolutions as needed – resolutions, which legally have no more force than opinions – and act as if they had the force of law.

 

On November 13th, before Tusk came to power, but when his majority already controlled the Sejm, his majority denied the largest parliamentary party, the United Right, the right to its own vice-Speaker. Each party has one and the tradition is that each party puts up and has accepted its own candidate. The governing coalition, with its parliamentary majority, voted down the United Right’s candidate, the former Speaker. So, the United Right is not represented in the Sejm Presidium as the United Right would not put up an alternate candidate.

 

What has the government done in its first month in power?


It has illegally seized control of the public media.

 No one denies the right of the government in power to govern, including the right of oversight of the public media, including changing its governing bodies – as long as such is done in the framework of the law.

 

On December 19th, Tusk’s majority passed a resolution on the “restoration of legal order and the impartiality and integrity of the public media.” On December 20th, the main television Polish public television channels had their signals turned off. I happened to be watching a news program as this happened. During their time in power, the United Right – by means of a law – had created a new body called ‘Council of National Media’ that regulated and governed public media. Ignoring this legally sanctioned body, Tusk had one of his ministers create new (and illicit) supervisory and management boards of public media (television, radio and PAP – the information agency) and used privately hired security firms to forcibly enter and occupy the physical facilities housing public media. In reaction, United Right parliamentary deputies began a physical occupation of these facilities using their deputy rights to ‘enter and intervene’. Some deputies have been there for weeks now.

 

With the public media stations (which had been almost the only main stream media to present a point critical of Tusk) still turned off, on December 20th, the EU announced that the ‘Immigration Pact’ that mandates that Poland accept illegal immigrants from Western Europe or pay a fine (22,000 euro per year per immigrant[1]) was accepted by all EU members. On December 13th, right after becoming prime minister, Tusk flew to Brussels. Because of the forceful takeover of the public media (TVP, Polskie Radio and the Polish Press Agency), most of the Polish people had no idea that Tusk had ordered the withdrawal of Polish opposition to the immigration issue. The other MSM stations and the coalition itself remained silent about the acceptance of this pact.


Telewizja Polska (TVP) By Adrian Grycuk - own work - License CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

 

It should be remembered that Poland’s previous government had built a wall preventing the storming of Poland’s eastern frontier by thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the border by Russia and Belarus as part of their hybrid plan to destabilize Poland and the EU, and that Poland had also consistently refused to accept illegal immigration from the West by opposing this ‘Immigration Pact of the EU (read Germany) that would offload its illegal immigrants to Poland. During the parliamentary campaign Tusk had publicly promised not to agree to this pact.

 

It has terminated the mandates of two United Right deputies and sent them to prison for two years.

Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, deputies and the former Minister and deputy Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, had been accused back in 2007, when they were head of the   Central Anti-Corruption Office, of exceeding their authority. The CBA is a unit created in 2006 by the Law and Justice government, which was then in power for the first time, and staffed with personnel not associated with former communist police services. They had organized a sting operation that affected one of the Law and Justice’s own coalition partners. Even though they had a court warrant, they were accused of illegally creating false documents and illegally wiretapping.


An investigation was opened by a public prosecutor named Bogusław Olewiński who had been registered in communist Poland as secret police informer. The investigation was then discontinued. The matter of the sting operation, however, caused the downfall of this first Law and Justice Government since one the persons supposedly open to taking bribes was Andrzej Lepper, Agriculture Minister and head of a party that was part of the Law and Justice government. As a consequence, Donald Tusk came to power.

 

Kamiński and Wąsik continued their work in the CBA and in 2009 alerted the Tusk government that prominent members of his party, the Civic Platform, had accepted bribes in exchange for promoting a bill that became law that was favorable to the gambling industry and which, according to officials, probably cost the state treasury four billion PLN [equal to one billion USD] in lost revenue.

 

Although a court forced the discontinuation of the CBA investigation, two prominent Tusk supporters were forced to resign, and Tusk himself was furious and took revenge. The previous investigation against Kamiński and Wąsik was reopened with accusations formally issued by prosecutors and as a result, Tusk was able to dismiss Kamiński and Wąsik from their positions. In time they were sentenced, after a lengthy process extending years, to three years in prison in    2015. It is interesting to note that of the three prosecutors prosecuting the case, besides Olewiński, one, Anny Habało, was later convicted of corruption.

 

It was at this point that President Duda intervened and pardoned the two men, saying that their process and conviction were politically motivated. Even Andrzej Czuma, a Civic Platform deputy, former member of the anticommunist opposition, who was head of parliamentary committee investing the matter, said that Kamiński "did not take actions that can be assessed as coercive overstepping of authority against subordinate officers." [Originally only Kamiński was accused, but Wąsik, as a sign of solidarity with his boss, had asked to be charged with the same accusations laid against Kamiński). The judge, Wojciech Łączewski, who sentenced the two men, was later proven in court, in another matter, of giving false testimony in court (lying under oath), and resigned his judgeship in disgrace. 

 

In June of 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the case against the men should be reopened – reasoning that the presidential pardon was made before the case had fully run its course (before a possible appeal by the men of the guilty sentence handed down by Łączewski). The Polish Constitution does not place limits on the power of the president to pardon – including at what step in the judicial process he could do so. It simply does not address the issue (the Polish Constitution itself, from 1997, is not perfect, being partially a product of the then governing post-communist coalition). On December 20th, a court in Warsaw redid the case, found the two men guilty and sentenced them to two years of prison.

 

It raided the presidential police and removed two United Right deputies by force during the president’s absence.

After the above ruling on December 20th, Szymon Hołownia, a leader of one of Tusk’s coalition parties and Speaker of the Sejm, declared that Kamiński and Wąsik were no longer deputies but would wait before he enforced this order until a 10-day appeal process, that he would initiate, to the Supreme Court, took its course. He then sent his representative to meet with the head of the Chamber of Labor and Social Security of the Supreme Court (the Polish Supreme Court is made up of individual chambers depending on the various areas of law) and asked that court to examine the case.


Presidential Palace Warsaw, Poland by LoMit - own work - License CC BY SA 4.0


This was in violation of procedure as any case to the Supreme Court is submitted first to a ‘receiving office’ which then delegates the matter to the appropriate chamber. The Chamber of Labor and Social Security is staffed by pro-Tusk judges. Kamiński and Wąsik submitted their own appeals to the Supreme Court and the president of the Supreme Court, Malgorzata Manowska, designated the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs as competent to hear the cases.

 

On January 4th, this chamber found in favor of the first of the two deputies (Wąsik) and declared his mandate as deputy was still valid (a similar decision regarding Kamiński would follow) Literally 15 minutes after this  decision, Speaker Hołownia held a press conference in which he emotionally declared that he was awaiting the decision of the other chamber and that he had asked in a letter to Piotr Prusinowski, the head of the Chamber of Labor,  "to entrust the case to a panel that will not undermine the trust that the judiciary should inspire in a democratic society and the rule of law."[2] thus basically admitting to trying the influence the composition of the judicial panel that would judge the appeal.

 

On January 10th, the Chamber of Labor issued a decision contrary to that of the other chamber and declared that the Extrordinary Control and Public Affairs Chamber "does not have the status of an independent and impartial court previously established by law," and therefore "its statements are not acts of the application of law."

 

Previously, on January 8th, Tomas Trębicki, a judge of the District Court for Warsaw-Śródmieście, and a member of the pro-Tusk Association of Polish Judges "Iustitia," issued an arrest warrant for Kamiński and Wąsik. President Duda, on the other hand, confirmed that his pardon was in force and the deputies were still deputies.

 

On the morning of January 9th, President Duda invited both deputies to the presidential palace to take part in a ceremony. That evening, the minister of internal affairs, Marcin Kierwiński, who is not only in charge of all of Poland’s police but also of the State Protection Service [SOP] that protects the president (like our Secret Service), ordered SOP to cooperate with the police in letting the police in and locating the deputies. This was made possible with the express cooperation of SOP, including Jacek Siewiera, Lieutenant Colonel Bartosz Hebda, personally responsible for the protection of the president, and SOP commander Gen. Radoslaw Jaworski, supposedly the latter was promised that the Tusk government in exchange would not make personnel changes in SOP. [3]

 

In the evening of January 9th, when hundreds of protesters were in front of the palace, 14 policemen went through the back and went directly to where they knew they would find the two deputies. SOP had informed the police that the president would not be present in the palace, that he would be at a meeting with Swiatłana Cichanouska, the head of the Belorussian opposition a few miles away. After that meeting, the president had planned to talk with the deputies. He did not get a chance. The deputies were arrested, taken out the back and are now in prison. Both have begun hunger strikes.


When President Duda was informed of what was happening at the Palace, he immediately stopped his meeting to return to the palace, but his motorcade exit was blocked by a public transport bus that supposedly had a breakdown. When, after some time, the motorcade got around the bus by going on the sidewalk, the bus simply went on its way. All on video. The mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, an ally of Tusk, who lost to the President Duda in the last presidential campaign and who is expected to run again in 2025 publicly ridiculed the idea that this was planned. For any thinking person, however, it was obviously part of the plan undertaken by Polish security services in coordination with Trzaskowski.

 

It should be remembered that in the morning of the day of the police raid on the presidential palace, Tusk held a press conference in which he read out an excerpt from the criminal code about the penalties President Duda could face for aiding criminals (up to five years in prison) and at the same time implying that no one, of course, is thinking about entering the palace by force.  “No one wants to expose Poland to any confrontation with state institutions. No one expects any forceful actions” [4] later that day, he did just that.

 

It is trying to sack the National Prosecutor whose office is conducting investigations of Tusk’s government’s suspected illegal acts. 

On January 12th, Tusk’s minister of justice, Adam Bodnar, informed National Prosecutor Dariusz Barski, that he had been illegally appointed in 2022 to his position and thus he is not the National Prosecutor. Bodnar had previously tried to get Barski to resign voluntarily but the latter refused, saying that the appointment or dismissal of the National Prosecutor can only occur with the approval of both the prime minister and the president (which is true) and the latter wishes him to continue in office. Thus, Bodnar had to think up some legal basis – which, as far as I have been able to discern so far, has already been debunked.

 

The national prosecutor is investigating suspected illegal acts of the Tusk government including examining the public notary’s office where the acts for taking over the public media were notarized and the raid on the presidential palace.

 

To try to enforce his decision by more physical means, Bodnar has said that he will now physically move his work office from the ministry of justice to the National Prosecutor’s office – a similar scenario to the tactics used with public media: using physical presence, backed up by police, to occupy facilities.

 

The national prosecutor’s office has announced that Bodnar is committing a crime.

Among other questionable acts undertaken by Tusk’s government in its first month was the termination on December 15th, by Minister of Defense, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, of the commission examining the Smoleńsk tragedy of April 10, 2010, when 96 members of Poland’s elite, including Poland’s president and its top generals were killed in plane crash on its way to honor the victims of the Katyń massacre of 1940 when 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia were killed by the Soviets. Evidence points to explosives planted by the Russians, possibly planted during the renovation – in Russia - of this Russian built plane the year before.

 

Kosiniak-Kamysz is head of the Polish People’s Party, which, although it gives lip service to a pre-war peasants’ party of the same name, is made up mainly of former members of the communist-era peasant’s party that cooperated with the communists and had a different name. In the early 90’s it won a court case that allowed it to use its present name and retain the property it occupied.

  

What are the Tusk government’s next steps?

 

Take over the National Bank of Poland, adopt the Euro currency, and transfer Poland’s gold reserves to the European Central Bank headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany.

This is very real and EU members that accept the Euro must indeed give up their gold reserves.    That was one of the ECB’s first decisions.[5] Poland’s gold and USD reserves have grown nearly 70% in the eight years the United Right was in power,[6] and Poland was reported to have almost 340 tons of gold by Q3 2023,[7] worth about 17 billion EUR.[8] Poland thus has more gold reserves than the UK and is at least 17th in the world.  This gold, together with foreign currency  reserves, is worth a total of 186.7 billion USD.[9] The monetary gold reserves of the European Central Bank (ECB), on the other hand, reached a value of about 27.7 billion euros in 2022. The figures also include gold deposits and swaps.[10]

 

The above would indicate that the infusion of Poland’s gold would significantly increase the ECB’s reserves.

 

Tusk, during his campaign, said he would take over the National Bank of Poland (NBP) and ‘send in strong men’ to physically remove Adam Glapiński, the president of NBP, who was elected by the Sejm in 2022 for another six-year term. Tusk claims that since Glapinski was first a member of the board of NBP for several months before he became president, he already served his limit of two terms.[11]


National Bank of Poland HQ By Andrzej Barabasz (Chepry) - own work - License CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Tusk has announced plans of placing Glapiński before the Tribunal of State as a way of removing him. On January 11th, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that “the provisions on the State Tribunal (TS), which stipulate that a resolution of the Sejm adopted by an absolute majority to bring the president of the NBP before the TS suspends him from office, are incompatible with the Constitution.” Tusk, in response, on January 12th, said: “...this strange verdict by Ms. Przyłębska [current president of the Constitutional Tribunal] is not binding, but there are other ways to seek legal responsibility for Mr. Glapinski for what he did as NBP president. We will find those ways."[12]

 

According to Glapiński, Tusk has never forgiven him for revealing his role in overthrowing the government of Jan Olszewski in the night of June 4th, 1992. Jan Olszewski and his government tried to remove informers for the former communist secret police from the government and the response was a late night meeting of the leaders of various parties to quickly vote him out – which they did. Tusk played a major role in that affair and it was Glapiński that supplied two Polish journalists, Piotr Semka and Jacek Kurski, with a recording of that meeting. These journalists went on to produce a well-known film entitled Nocna zmiana [Change in the Night].

 

In Gapiński’s words: “I would also like to point out that Tusk's dislike of me stems precisely from that memorable night, because everyone knows that it was I who handed over to Jacek  Kurski the tape with the recording of that conversation, that gangster plot against Jan Olszewski’s government. He (Tusk) was then exposed as an alleged anti-communist who conspired with former communist agents against the first democratic government. He hates me personally for this, and he transfers this to state actions."[13] (The author of this article later worked as the director of Olszewski’s national campaign HQ when he ran for president in 1995.)

 

Accede to Germany’s plan for creating a super European state by changing EU treaties to  remove veto power and to transfer decision-making in vital areas from member state to the EU- thus limiting the sovereignty of member states.

Veto power would be retained only by the 15 largest EU powers[14] while competencies in 65 areas would be transferred partially or completely from the member states to the EU. A complete transfer of the authority to make decisions would occur in two areas: environmental protection and biodiversity, while a partial transfer in seven: foreign and security policy, border protection, public health, civil defense, industry and education.[15]

 

During his expose on December 12th, Tusk said he would not “accept any treaty changes that would be against Polish interests.” and ‘no one in the EU can pull a hood over me.” In the same speech, he quoted Romuald Traugutt, one of the leaders of Poland’s January Uprising of 1863: “We will not attain freedom not through by breaking the law but by upholding it.”[16] In light of his actions, it seems that not only can Tusk not be trusted but that he often says one thing and then does just the opposite.

 

After the mass demonstration on January 11th, I spoke with Dariusz Lipiński, a former two-term deputy for the Civic Platform party that knows Tusk well – having worked with him for years. “I think he is a sociopath. He lies and manipulates.” said Lipiński. Lipiński in time became disillusioned with the Civic Platform, particularly after it began inviting former communists to the party and left in 2014. He also said that Tusk is extremely lazy, which seems to somehow contradict Tusk’s drive to dominate others. He did say that he was of above-average intelligence. I myself recall how quickly Tusk learned English after being selected to become president of the European Council.

 

Source of Today’s Crisis

 

Poland has entered upon a dangerous path. The hope is that adversity will strengthen the drive of Poles for true freedom and sovereignty, but the danger is creating a situation with too many roadblocks to overcome.


David Stark, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, has written extensively on what is known as ‘path dependence’ and thus that the future is conditioned by the road in which we are now on.  In Transition to Capitalism? The Communist Legacy in Eastern Europe, he wrote: “Communism did not collapse in…Poland, its demise was negotiated…”[17] (p 87), and this, in my opinion is modern Poland’s original sin. The absence of a clean slate meant that individuals and institutions that were part of the former communist system retained influence in democratic Poland, creating a force that has continually not just hampered, but at times almost hamstrung Poland’s growth in terms of creating a true citizens’ society. Reforms meant to free Poland from its communist legacy are constantly attacked, in Orwellian ‘up means down’ form, as anti-democratic and anti-citizen.

 

The above ‘negotiation’ and lack of a decided break in 1989, meant that the state economy, to a large extent, went into the hands of the former communist nomenklatura, that the security services were only partially reformed, and that the judiciary from the communist period remained intact. Poles could not understand how, in a democratic Poland, trials of persons involved in communist crimes (like the killing of striking minors in December 1981), went on for years and years and either ended in very lenient sentences or acquittals.

 

Why? These were often judges from the communist era, who were themselves compromised. There was an attempt in 1997 to create a judicial body composed of 20 judges that would examine their fellows to see if any worked with the former communist secret police. There had to be 20 members for this judicial body to function, only one judge had the courage to come forward and join it. So, it never got off the ground. As a result, a special one-person position was created that would examine judges’ declarations of non-involvement with the secret police. Each case had to go individually through the regular court system – staffed by these same communist-era judges….

 

Poland was unlike most of Europe and United States, in that most judges are not chosen by legislators, or elected, but are selected by bodies made up of already existing judges – thus it was a self-perpetuating ‘caste’ of judges. As of 2018, Poland had 9,842 judges and the average time for a court case was 2 ½ years. Denmark, which has seven times less population, had 430 judges (and thus 1/3 the number of judges per 100,000 persons as compared to Poland) and the average court case in Denmark was 2 1/2 months.[18] 


Supreme Court of Poland, Warsaw By User: Darwinek - own work- License CC BY-SA 3.0

 

The former government tried to rectify this situation during its eight years in power from 2015-2023 and was only partially successful. Unfortunately, two important bills that would have gone a long way to making the judicial system healthy, were vetoed by President Duda in 2017. He claimed the bills were not up to par and also wanted to placate the opposition (there was also opposition from abroad drummed up by then Polish opposition). He introduced his own bills were then accepted by the legislature and become law. These were, unfortunately, not as decisive as the original bills but at least move a bit in the right direction.


We are now seeing the effect of this half-hearted reform and the obstinacy of those against reform in the form of a legal dualism with some courts staffed by anti-reform judges laying down decisions that are contrary to decisions made by other courts. 

 

A few words on the accusations of Tusk and his followers of the United Right being anti-democratic. This seems to be following a pattern that mirrors the political dichotomy in the United States. The MSM continually harps on emotions and degrades the other side but when pressed for specifics, are hard put to come up with something definite. It would be hard for me now to find, but I remember being surprised when I read a comment by a well-known journalist of one of the main beacons of the left, Gazeta Wyborcza, that the Law and Justice was an ‘extremely democratic party’. It looks like the guy inadvertently let loose with what he really felt. A huge number of followers of Tusk, on the other hand, seem to be fanatical true believers. Not yet like 1930’s Germany, but scary, nonetheless.

 

Can the United Right be criticized? Of course. It ran public media – in terms of its news programs – in an aggressive form. It became famous for showing a clip, over and cover, of Tusk saying in German (in some speech he gave): “For Germany!” Also, the public news media DID NOT put the government in a bad light. So, in that sense, it was biased. But it must be said that it always had opposition deputies present on its news and talk programs, where they would aggressively attack the Polish government. So, the opposing view was there. The Tusk government is putting out news programs on the public media that it has taken over – and these outlets simply omit information uncomfortable for the Tusk government. No mention of the Immigration Pact, for example.

 

Two more factors – firstly: during the government of the United Right, public media presented one point of view and all the other major news organizations, presented diametrically other views, thus it provided a degree of plurality in the political news menu, and secondly, the public media under the previous government promoted what was, objectively speaking, matters of vital interest to Poland’s sovereignty and even continued existence, particularly in terms of building up Poland’s defense capabilities, the defense of its borders and investment in major strategic energy and transportation initiatives.

 

The situation is evolving.


Endnotes

17  Stark, David. "Path Dependence and Privatization Strategies in East Central Europe." In Transition to Capitalism? The Communist Legacy in Eastern Europe, edited by Janos Matyas Kovacs: Transaction Books, 1994, p 87.

 







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