It is strange that the critics of the new government, who fret about the supposed irregularities surrounding the Constitutional Tribunal and the fate of the state-owned media, never noticed the profoundly illiberal—and unpopular—policies of the outgoing administration and its sole preoccupation with solidifying its own grip on power. Neither the now-vocal EU Commissioners nor the Western media complained about the anti-democratic agenda when the former ruling coalition and its post-Communist allies, fearing election-day losses, subverted the constitution by packing the Constitutional Tribunal with their own nominees, expressly to block the winning party’s future legislative agenda and stop Law and Justice from appointing its own judges to the highest court. S&P did not mind those particular “legislative measures that…weaken the independence and effectiveness of key institutions” either, even though the illegal maneuver increased the number of constitutional judges and, if unchecked, would have left the outgoing administration in control of the entire 15-member Tribunal. It is ironic that the Civic Platform and its supporters in Brussels and beyond cry foul now, just because the newly elected president and the new parliament foiled their scheme, leaving the sore losers in the opposition with “only” 10, rather than all 15, judges.
The often-repeated claim that Law and Justice is threatening the integrity of the state-owned media is similarly preposterous. The political purges of journalists under Civic Platform’s rule and predawn police raids to seize the computers of independent news organizations in order to suppress credible reports of government corruption and gross abuses of power curiously did not earn the PO prime minister Donald Tusk international opprobrium—or a sovereign debt rating cut. Instead, he was appointed president of the European Council, a job for which he was endorsed by Angela Merkel herself. Given the German media’s penchant for self-censorship and the now-infamous handling of the New Year’s Eve sexual violence, perhaps the German EU officials share the former Polish prime minister’s apparent belief in the merits of subjecting the state-owned media to their own, correct political orthodoxy. That the hysterical voices of the Polish government’s critics are now being heard, loud and clear, on TV, on the radio, and in major newspapers in Poland and beyond puts the previous ruling coalition’s suppression of its opponents to shame—unlike its Civic Platform predecessors, the new Law and Justice government does not harass its critics in the press. And those who were defeated and now disingenuously criticize the new administration for appointing its own people to state posts, including in state-run media, as all ruling coalitions have done before them, should consider accepting the fact that they lost.
Elections have consequences, which is precisely the hope of all those who exercise their right to vote, especially in a country where three generations fought against two of the 20th century’s most vicious totalitarian regimes to enshrine that right and the freedoms it represents—into law.