Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
I argue that liberal democracy is still achievable in Poland for three reasons. First, the success of
President Duda and PiS was a product of specific conditions existing in 2015. By utilizing their
nationalist, populist platform and the lack of EU action to prevent the PiS government’s
replacement of independent judges with party loyalists, PiS took advantage of the existing political
environment in a way that will not be as easily replicated in the future. With increased pressure
from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and lost majority in the Polish Senate in 2019, the PiS
government will have a weaker capacity to systematically undermine democratic norms and
principles. Second, PiS’s influence over other democratic institutions is not as deeply-rooted as it
is in the judiciary. The senate, media, electoral framework, and mass protests in Poland are largely
independent and provide opposition groups with useful platforms to express discontent and even
stop authoritarian legislation from passing, despite disadvantageous shifts in the playing field.
Third, I argue that public opinion polls reveal that PiS is losing popular support and effective
methods of appealing to Poles, suggesting cooperative opposition parties will become more
competitive in future elections despite a somewhat polarized political environment.