Why is Kaczynski, a staunch Catholic, leading his rightfully proud nation toward its own Turkification?
For any man of Jaroslav Kaczynski’s convictions, it must be considered a grave insult to be accused of leading his rightfully proud nation toward its own Turkification. And yet, that is exactly the strategy he is pursuing.
Ever since the Siege of Vienna in 1529, Catholic rulers have long stood as a bulwark against the spread of Islam in Europe. However, Mr. Kaczynski evidently feels no shame to copycat almost every disgraceful move made earlier by his new top bosom buddy, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey.
Who would have ever imagined that the de facto leader of Poland seems to dance to the same tune as the new Sultan of Turkey?
Both men are dedicated to a ruthless pursuit of majoritarianism. They are determined to make mincemeat not just of the spirit, but the letters of democracy. In fact, they are prepared to turn democracy into a sham regime that allows for their own personal absolute rule, in all domains of politics, society and the economy.
Turkey’s economic weakness
In Erdogan’s case, that strategy has already backfired badly. He has declared many a nation his best new partner – from Syria and the immediate neighborhood to Russia and Saudi Arabia. All that Erdogan has created in the real world is to tear down his nation to the point where nobody trusts him anymore.
Sadly, it is not the rulers but the people who end up paying the price for the boundless arrogance of megalomanical leaders. Turkey’s economy is already teetering on the brink. Tourists, other than often drunk Russians cavorting around Turkey’s Mediterranean resorts, are choosing other travel destinations.
Treatment of the media
Economic issues aside, the really troublesome parallels that underscore the case of Poland’s deplorable Turkification under Kaczynski’s baton play out in other arenas.
Consider Erdogan’s treatment of the Turkish media. He has undertaken numerous purges in the public-sector media, turning them into Soviet-style agitprop machines for each and every devious act committed by the government. Kaczynski and his PiS party soldiers are pursuing a similarly expansive strategy.
Anytime Erdogan was particularly peeved about the truth about insider dealings and other politically touchy matters coming out, he has made it his regular practice to have those journalists indicted. In most cases, the only “crime” they have committed is to displease the ruler with an unappetizing portion of the truth.
That is where the charges recently brought by Polish defense minister Antoni Macierewicz against the investigative journalist Tomasz Piatek fit right into the Turkification parallel.
All of that is especially regrettable because Poland, post-1989, stood out from all other Central and Eastern European nations in one regard: No matter whether the center-left or the center-right governed, until the second coming of PiS in late 2015, the country basically stayed on a centrist path in its economic, financial and social policies.
A key reason why Poland became strong is that it spared itself the vast swings from left to right that paralyzed many other former Warsaw Pact nations from on election cycle to another.
That is the proud legacy which Mr. Kaczynski, working via his official delegates, is feverishly turning to mincemeat. That, perhaps, is the primary dimension in which Poland is till unlike Turkey. Erdogan has no reservations about acting very publicly not just as President, but as Sultan. Where Kaczynski much prefers the shadows, Erdogan loves the limelight.
The real worry is that Mr. Kaczynski’s penchant to be a complete control freak mimics Erdogan’s obsessions. Erdogan is totally unaware that it is he himself who robs Turkey of key sources of future economic growth. Having a creative – and yes, critical – class is an ever more important economic factor as we enter an era of the post-manufacturing economy.
The same development is playing out in Poland. Blindsided by his vindictiveness and Erdogan-like obsession with seeing a conspiracy against him around every corner, Kaczynski has no understanding at all that this also stifles overall societal development.
Fortunately, Poland – particularly owing to its proud history since 1980 – is blessed with a great deal of people with vast civic courage. Better yet, the domestic opposition to PiS in Poland is nowhere near as fragmented as the opposition is in Turkey.
At a minimum, Kaczynski’s deliberate effort of altering any and all state institutions that he can lay his fingers on will eventually require a great deal of clean-up work to free the country from the small-mindedness and hatefulness that it represents.
Young Poles would be much better off if its current government would focus on future-proofing Poland’s economy and people, rather than fighting rearguard actions to remake history to fit the conceptions of one particular person.
Duda’s pivotal role
Interestingly, Andrzej Duda, Poland’s 45 year old President, to date has sadly acted more like an overeager rubber-stamp mechanism for all of Kaczynski’s whims. For Kaczynski, given that he truly lives in the past, it is at least understandable, though not acceptable, that he pursues a wrecking ball strategy.
The same cannot be said about Poland’s current President. Very much member of the younger generation, he is actually failing his country in a more shameful fashion than the man that steers his actions.
The fact that he explicitly campaigned for his high office by referring often to making himself an advocate for the younger generation is a – so far largely unmet – promise that he should be reminded of daily. For it is ultimately he who is selling out the young with his acquiescence.
That he has now vetoed two of the judiciary “reform” bills to undo the separation of powers is a first sign of independence.
Hopefully, Duda realizes that, in tandem with Poland’s civil society, he is the key roadblock to prevent Poland’s creeping Turkification.