: Newsweek: Can Poland resist returning to one-party oppression?

12:35 May. 12, 2016

Newsweek: Can Poland resist returning to one-party oppression?

Opponents of Poland's government carry a Polish and EU flags tied together as they march downtown streets to protest the country's direction in Warsaw, Poland, on May 7, 2016 (AP photo)

Jarosław Kaczyński justifies the changes by saying that the party is only undoing what its predecessor, Civil Platform, did 

First, the good news. Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets in Warsaw on May 7. Their slogan: We are and will remain in Europe. The huge crowds were protesting against the policies of the Law and Justice party, which swept to power with a parliamentary majority in October 2015.

The protesters hate the fact that Law and Justice wants to promote a nationalist and patriotic agenda through appointing judges, changing the way the constitutional court works and choosing directors of state-run radio and television who will do the party's bidding. And much more besides. The protesters were challenging Poland's future direction.

Pro-government supporters held a smaller counterdemonstration. Their slogan: Poland, have courage. They told Law and Justice not to give in to "cliques" around the center-right Civic Platform party, which they said hadn't come to terms with losing the 2015 election after governing Poland for nine years.

Read also Poland could face legal chaos as authorities defy government

Despite the big differences in size, the two demonstrations showed that civil society is alive and well in Poland. This is important not only for Poland but also in the wider context of Europe and Eastern Europe.

Civil society activists in Ukraine have been crucial in trying to curb the insidious influence of the oligarchs who have embedded themselves deep in the state institutions.

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