“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.” So said Abraham Lincoln. Of course, he was speaking of the United States, but the principle applies equally to any democratic republic, to Poland, for example. Here, on 25th October, the people having grown weary of their existing government, exercised their constitutional right to amend it by electing in its place a government formed by Law and Justice (PiS), just as they had earlier in the year elected a president from the same party. But how dare they? For the self-styled EU “elite” and their media and business chums who wish to see a Europe of nationless neo-serfs, robbed of their history and culture, this was quite simply the wrong result.
The latest to jump on the bandwagon of hysteria is Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, renewing the plan for a debate in the European parliament on the PiS government. When such a debate was proposed earlier this month, PiS dismissed the need for such a discussion. “This is incomprehensible hysteria caused by liberal circles,” said Law and Justice MEP Tomasz Poręba.
Well, the hysteria has not died down, prompted in part by the Polish parliament’s passing an amendment that allowed for the replacement of five judges in Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the tribunal itself having concluded that Poland’s last government had prematurely voted in two judges of its own persuasion. The shenanigans rumble on but, as I wrote here in Democracy, two wrongs don’t make a right – that’s simply politics here –but then nor does six of one and half a dozen of the other make a coup d’ état.
Unfortunately, for Schulz (who is German), recent developments in Poland “have the character of a coup d’ état.” In an interview with German radio station Deutschlandfunk, Schulz said that a debate on the PiS government could take place either this week, and “no later than the January session.” Nothing more exciting than a debate is in prospect, however. According to Schulz, “when right-wing populists are handed the argument that external forces – other countries – are trying to interfere in the internal politics of their country in order to correct the situation, then this increases their popularity like nothing else,” he said, a debate being something else.
And just would he ideally propose to “correct the situation”? Because, when it comes to coups d’ état, the EU is on a sticky wicket, as the hapless electorates of Italy, Ireland, Greece have all found out in recent years. Besides, call me old fashioned, but my idea of a coup d’ état involves tanks on lawns, martial music on the radio, and soldiers on street corners. All of which are missing in Poland. Instead Warsaw saw good natured demonstrations over the weekend (the anniversary incidentally of the imposition in martial law in in 1980) both against and for the government. Indeed, the former prime minister, Leszek Miller, head of the Democratic Left Alliance (which won no seats in the lower house of parliament in the recent election), said that he does not subscribe to the opinion that “democracy is under threat.”
Be that as it may, Schulz’s remarks sparked an angry reaction in Warsaw, with the prime minister, Beata Szydlo, saying they were “unacceptable” and that she was expecting an apology. Meanwhile, the foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski called the coup remark “unfounded and therefore irresponsible”. Remarking that a high-ranking politician should be far better informed before making public statements, Waszczykowski continued, “He should at least know that Poland has recently seen a free and democratic election whose results are undisputed, and that now in Poland, as in many other democratic countries, we are simply having a normal political debate about institutional solutions.”
In November Schulz also criticized Poland’s government, which has concerns about the EU immigration policy, for what he described as a lack of solidarity (a weasel word if there were one) in dealing with the refugee crisis. The interior minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, reacted by calling Schulz’s words “scandalous” and “another example of German arrogance”.
So less hysteria and more keeping calm and carrying on should be the order of the day without, of course, sinking into complacency. Because, coup or no coup, politicians still need watching for, as Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘law represents the effort of man to organize society; governments the efforts of selfishness to overthrow liberty.”