Explaining Eastern Europe: Can Poland’s Backsliding Be Stopped?

Issue Date July 2018
Volume 29
Issue 3
Page Numbers 52-64
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Viewed until recently as an exemplar of democratic transformation, Poland is increasingly seen as a leading case of democratic backsliding thanks to a series of illiberal measures pushed through by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party. PiS ascended to power in 2015. It has used to its advantage a politicized conspiracy theory about the crash of a government plane outside Smolensk in 2010; a dual power structure; and a narrative of “sovereign democracy.” Since 2015, it has sought to make systemic changes to Poland’s political landscape, for instance by weakening institutional checks and balances through changes to the judicial system, pressuring media outlets, and replacing the boards of the country’s public companies. Currently, Poland’s decentralized political structure remains the most important counterweight to the country’s rising illiberalism.

About the Author

Wojciech Przybylski is editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight, a biannual analytical and opinion journal, and chair of the Res Publica Foundation in Warsaw. He was previously editor-in-chief of Eurozine. His coedited volume Understanding Central Europe was released in 2018.

View all work by Wojciech Przybylski