Jarosław Kaczyński wants to "transform Poland from the ground up". The head of the National Conservative Party Law and Justice (PiS) has issued this as his "true goal". After the general election on Sunday, it is clear that Kaczyński can continue to work on a state transformation in the next four years, towards a Catholic-national-Polish and in its essence illiberal republic.
For the first forecasts, the PiS won with 43.6 percent of the vote clearly. The Liberal Citizens' Coalition (27.4), the Left Alliance Lewica (11.9) and the Polish Coalition (KP) around the Conservative Peasant Party (9.6) and the ultra-right Confederation (6.4) followed far behind.
These numbers meant more than a sovereign victory. Sunday became the day of triumph and record for Kaczyński. The PiS achieved the best result for a party since the end of communism in Poland with significantly increased turnout. For the first time since 1989, a ruling power succeeded in gaining favor with the citizens.
The national conservatives again improved by six points compared to their surprise victory of 2015. The PiS will most likely be able to continue on its own. If the forecasts confirm, the PiS would have conquered 239 of the 460 seats in the Sejm. Even that did not exist in post-communist Poland.
However, the distribution of seats is not yet final. Kaczyński also pointed that out in his first reaction. In the appearance in front of his cheering supporters, the PiS boss seemed exhausted and a little thoughtful. "We have four years of hard work ahead of us," he said, calling on his party to "reflect on what we have achieved and what has led to a certain part of society not supporting us."
The PiS wants to change Poland - revolutionary or evolutionary?
The bottom line is an indisputable triumph for the PiS and Kaczyński in person. This raises the question of what the party and above all its boss intend to do with the renewed power. Basically, there are two ways in which the PiS could achieve its goal of transforming Poland from the ground up: the revolutionary and the evolutionary.
If Kaczyński opts for the revolutionary path, the future government should soon escalate the rule of law with the EU. At the same time, it could sweep a second wave of democratically questionable systemic reforms across the country. Clues can be found in the election program of the PiS enough. Among other things, it called for the abolition of the immunity of judges, prosecutors and members of parliament. In addition, a control chamber for ethical journalism should be established.
The evolutionary path would be that the PiS continues to secure its power through minor institutional changes and otherwise relies on the "reforms" already underway. An example: Particularly controversial in the past was the attempt of the PiS to push unpleasant judges out of office by early forced retirement. In 2018, the European Court of Justice stopped the proceedings.
The government in Warsaw relented. In the next four years, however, retirements will gradually take effect anyway, simply because the affected persons reach the regular retirement age. The PiS, however, has long since created the conditions for further expanding the control of the judiciary over the new appointments through a renewed appointment procedure.
Three ex-presidents fear "Slipping Poland into a dictatorship"
It is difficult to predict the path Kaczyński will follow, leading the PiS for almost 20 years, and thus keeping all the threads of power in his hands even without a government office. The horror scenario of a Kaczyński revolution had painted three former Polish presidents on the final stretch of the election campaign on the wall. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Wałęsa, who led the peaceful Solidarnosc revolution to victory in 1989, his post-socialist successor Alexander Kwaśniewski and the liberal-conservative Duda predecessor Bronisław Komorowski openly warned against a "slipping Poland into a dictatorship".
The political scientist Klaus Bachmann of the University of Warsaw, on the other hand, before the election threw another, quite remarkable, spotlight on the political situation in Poland. Although the PiS had ensured that "virtually all control mechanisms for the executive and the legislature have been eliminated, but she has not used it to manipulate the elections." According to Bachmann's assessment, Kaczyński seeks more "a kind of authoritarian state" than in the German Empire, but no dictatorship.
The great success of the paternalistic economic and social policy of recent years, which according to Bachmann's assessment should have contributed significantly to the strength of the PiS, also speaks in favor of such a direction of the future PiS policy. The party had given respect to people in Poland, who often felt like second-class citizens, and "that was made credible by giving them more money at the same time."
By contrast, according to Bachmann himself "many PiS supporters a strong mistrust of a one-party system." 30 years after the round table in Warsaw and the following fall of the Berlin Wall, the memories of Communist rule in Poland are still too alive. From this point of view, there is hope that democracy between Oder and Neisse will hold its own - no matter which way Jarosław Kaczyński chooses.