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Poland's Constitutional Breakdown$
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Wojciech Sadurski

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198840503

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198840503.001.0001

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Anti-constitutional Populist Backsliding

Anti-constitutional Populist Backsliding

(p.1) 1 Anti-constitutional Populist Backsliding
Poland's Constitutional Breakdown

Wojciech Sadurski

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a general overview of the post-2015 changes in the Polish state. It demonstrates that they proceeded in an incremental way, without any clear ‘breaking point’. The most nefarious consequences stemmed from the cumulative effects of different changes, often with formal institutions intact, but which were hollowed out of their original function as checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches. Largely, it emulates similar changes in Hungary, except that in Poland, the ruling party has no majority sufficient to pass through constitutional changes. The chapter further argues that, overall, the negative transformation can be described by using three characteristics. First, it is unconstitutional because there have been multiple breaches of express constitutional provisions, constitutional conventions have been disregarded, the constitutional structure has been amended through statutory changes, and the real centre of political power is different from that constitutionally designed. Second, it is populist, in that the ruling elite cares a great deal about popular support, and uses traditional populist devices such as pretending to speak on behalf of the whole nation, and dismantles various institutional mechanisms of the separation of powers. Third, it constitutes backsliding, because trajectory and path-dependence are crucial to understanding Poland’s current state.

Keywords:   Poland, populism, backsliding, constitutionalism, separation of powers, Hungary

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