Law and Justice
Law and Justice is a national-conservative, Christian democratic and right-wing populist political party in Poland, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party. With 198 seats in the Polish Sejm and 48 in the Senate, PiS is currently the largest political party in the Polish parliament. The current twenty-five PiS MEPs sit in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament.
The party was founded in 2001 by the Kaczyński twins, Lech and Jarosław, as a centrist and Christian democratic party. It was formed from part of the Solidarity Electoral Action, with the Christian democratic Centre Agreement forming the new party's core. The party won the 2005 election, while Lech Kaczyński won the presidency. Law and Justice formed coalition with the Eurosceptic League of Polish Families and Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland. Jarosław served as Prime Minister, before calling elections in 2007, in which the party came in second to Civic Platform. In these elections PiS lost most of its moderate electorate but attracted voters from its former coalition members and then turned to nationalism and populism. As a result LPR and SRP lost all their seats and descended into political irrelevancy. Several leading members, including sitting president Lech Kaczyński, died in a plane crash in 2010.
During its founding the party was dominated by the Kaczyńskis' conservative and law and order agenda. It has embraced economic interventionism, while maintaining a socially conservative stance that in 2005 moved towards the Catholic Church; the party's Catholic nationalist wing split off in 2011 to form Solidary Poland but then formed a joint ballot with PiS before the 2015 elections.
FormationThe party was created on a wave of popularity gained by late president of Poland Lech Kaczyński while heading the Polish Ministry of Justice in the AWS-led government, although local committees began appearing from 22 March 2001. The AWS itself was created from a diverse array of many small political parties.
In the 2001 general election, PiS gained 44 seats in the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament with 9.5% of votes. In 2002, Lech Kaczyński was elected mayor of Warsaw. He handed the party leadership to his twin brother in 2003.
In coalition government: 2005–2007In the 2005 general election, PiS took first place with 27.0% of votes, which gave it 155 out of 460 seats in the Sejm and 49 out of 100 seats in the Senate. It was almost universally expected that the two largest parties, PiS and Civic Platform, would form a coalition government. The putative coalition parties had a falling out, however, related to a fierce contest for the Polish presidency. In the end, Lech Kaczyński won the second round of the presidential election on 23 October 2005 with 54.0% of the vote, ahead of Donald Tusk, the PO candidate.
After the 2005 elections, Jarosław should have become Prime Minister. However, in order to improve his brother's chances of winning the presidential election, PiS formed a minority government headed by Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz as prime minister, an arrangement that eventually turned out to be unworkable. In July 2006, PiS formed a right-wing coalition government with the agrarian populist Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland and the nationalist League of Polish Families, headed by Jarosław Kaczyński. Association with these parties, on the margins of Polish politics, severely affected the reputation of PiS. When accusations of corruption and sexual harassment against Andrzej Lepper, the leader of Self-Defence, surfaced, PiS chose to end the coalition and called for new elections.
In opposition: 2007–2015In the 2007 general election, PiS managed to secure 32.1% of votes. Although an improvement over its showing from 2005, the results were nevertheless a defeat for the party, as Civic Platform gathered 41.5%. The party won 166 out of 460 seats in the Sejm and 39 seats in Poland's Senate.
On 10 April 2010, its former leader Lech Kaczyński died in the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash. Jarosław Kaczyński becomes the sole leader of the party. He was the presidential candidate in the 2010 elections.
In majority government: 2015–presentThe party won the 2015 parliamentary election, this time with an outright majority—something no Polish party had done since the fall of communism. In the normal course of events, this should have made Jarosław Kaczyński prime minister for a second time. However, Beata Szydło, perceived as being somewhat more moderate than Kaczyński, had been tapped as PiS' candidate for prime minister.
The Law and Justice government has been accused of posing a threat to the Polish liberal democratic system by many opposition groups. PiS' 2015 victory prompted creation of a cross-party opposition movement, the Committee for the Defence of Democracy. Law and Justice has supported controversial reforms carried out by the Hungarian Fidesz party, with Jarosław Kaczyński declaring in 2011 that "a day will come when we have a Budapest in Warsaw". Proposed 2017 judicial reforms, which according to the party were meant to improve efficiency of the justice system, sparked protest as they were seen as undermining judicial independence. While these reforms were initially unexpectedly vetoed by President Duda, he later signed them into law. This was met with ire from the European Union, and European Council president Donald Tusk warned that the bill might push Poland out of the EU.
Law and Justice has been accused by The Economist for undermining democracy and the rule of law and promoting right-wing extremism. However, it still enjoys support from many within the country, as some see it as a force that restored rule of law after the perceived corruption of Civic Platform, exemplified for instance by the inability of the Civic Platform's government to properly gather VAT taxes as well as its politicians being involved in the reprivatization scandal in Warsaw.
The party won reelection in the 2019 parliamentary election. With 44% of the popular vote, Law and Justice received the highest vote share by any party since Poland returned to democracy in 1989, but lost its majority in the Senate.
BreakawaysIn January 2010, a breakaway faction led by Jerzy Polaczek split from the party to form Poland Plus. Its seven members of the Sejm came from the centrist, economically liberal wing of the party. On 24 September 2010, the group was disbanded, with most of its Sejm members, including Polaczek, returning to Law and Justice.
On 16 November 2010, MPs Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, Elżbieta Jakubiak and Paweł Poncyljusz, and MEPs Adam Bielan and Michał Kamiński formed a new political group, Poland Comes First. Kamiński said that the Law and Justice party had been taken over by far-right extremists. The breakaway party formed following dissatisfaction with the direction and leadership of Kaczyński.
On 4 November 2011, MEPs Zbigniew Ziobro, Jacek Kurski, and Tadeusz Cymański were ejected from the party, after Ziobro urged the party to split further into two separate parties – centrist and nationalist – with the three representing the nationalist faction. Ziobro's supporters, most of whom on the right-wing of the party, formed a new group in Parliament called Solidary Poland, leading to their expulsion, too. United Poland was formed as a formally separate party in March 2012, but has not threatened Law and Justice in opinion polls.
Base of supportLike Civic Platform, but unlike the fringe parties to the right, Law and Justice originated from the anti-communist Solidarity trade union, which was not a theocratic organisation. Solidarity's leadership wanted to back Law and Justice in 2005, but was held back by the union's last experience of party politics, in backing Solidarity Electoral Action.
Today, the party enjoys great support among working class constituencies and union members. Groups that vote for the party include miners, farmers, shopkeepers, unskilled workers, the unemployed, and pensioners. With its left-wing approach toward economics, the party attracts voters who feel that economic liberalisation and European integration have left them behind. The party's core support derives from older, religious people who value conservatism and patriotism. PiS voters are usually located in rural areas and small towns. The strongest region of support is the southeastern part of the country. Voters without a university degree tend to prefer the party more than college-educated voters do. Recently, younger voters have begun to support PiS more than in previous years.
Regionally, it has more support in regions of Poland that were historically part of western Galicia-Lodomeria and Congress Poland. Since 2015, the borders of support are not as clear as before and party enjoys support in western parts of country, especially these deprived ones. Large cities in all regions are more likely to vote for more liberal party like PO or.N. Still PiS receives good support from poor and working class areas in large cities.
Based on this voter profile, Law and Justice forms the core of the conservative post-Solidarity bloc, along with the League of Polish Families and Solidarity Electoral Action, as opposed to liberal conservative post-Solidarity bloc of Civic Platform. The most prominent feature of PiS voters was their emphasis on decommunisation.
IdeologyInitially the party was broadly pro-market, although less so than the Civic Platform. It has adopted the social market economy rhetoric similar to that of western European Christian democratic parties. In the 2005 election, the party shifted to the protectionist left on economics. As Prime Minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz was more economically liberal than the Kaczyńskis, advocating a position closer to Civic Platform. However, unlike Civic Platform, whose emphasis is the economy, Law and Justice's focus during their first term in power was fighting corruption.
On foreign policy, PiS is Atlanticist and less supportive of European integration than Civic Platform. The party is soft eurosceptic and opposes a federal Europe. In its campaigns, it emphasises that the European Union should "benefit Poland and not the other way around". It is a member of the anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists Party, having previously been a part of the Alliance for Europe of the Nations and, before that, the European People's Party.
EconomyThe party supports a state-guaranteed minimum social safety net and state intervention in the economy within market economy bounds. During the 2015 election campaign it proposed tax decrease to two personal tax rates and tax rebates related to the number of children in a family, as well as a reduction of the VAT rate. 18% and 32% tax rates were eventually implemented. Also: a continuation of privatization with the exclusion of several dozen state companies deemed to be of strategic importance for the country. PiS opposes cutting social welfare spending, and also proposed the introduction of a system of state-guaranteed housing loans. PiS supports state provided universal health care.
National political structuresPiS has presented a project for constitutional reform including, among others: allowing the president the right to pass laws by decree, a reduction of the number of members of the Sejm and Senat, and removal of constitutional bodies overseeing the media and monetary policy. PiS advocates increased criminal penalties. It postulates aggressive anti-corruption measures, as well as broad and various measures to smooth the working of public institutions.
PiS is a strong supporter of lustration, a verification system created ostensibly to combat the influence of the Communist era security apparatus in Polish society. While current lustration laws require the verification of those who serve in public offices, PiS wants to expand the process to include university professors, lawyers, journalists, managers of large companies, and others performing "public functions". Those found to have collaborated with the security service, according to the party, should be forbidden to practice in their professions.
Diplomacy and defenseThe party is in favour of strengthening the Polish Army through diminishing bureaucracy and raising military expenditures, especially for modernization of army equipment. PiS planned to introduce a fully professional army and end conscription by 2012. It is also in favor of participation of Poland in foreign military missions led by the United Nations, NATO and United States, in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.
leaders' meeting in Prague, 2015
The party supports integration with the European Union on terms beneficial for Poland. It supports economic integration and tightening the cooperation in areas of energetic security and military, but is skeptical about closer political integration. It is against formation of European superstate or federation. PiS is in favor of strong political and military alliance of Poland with the United States.
In the European Parliament it is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists, a group founded in 2009 to challenge the prevailing pro-federalist ethos of the European Parliament and address the perceived democratic deficit existing at a European level.
Social policiesThe party's views on social issues are much more traditionalist than those of social conservative parties in other European countries.
Family policiesThe party strongly promotes itself as a pro-family party and encourages married couples to have more children. Prior to 2005 elections, it promised to build 3 million inexpensive housing units as a way to help young couples start a family. Once in government, it passed legislation lengthening parental leaves.
In 2017, the PiS government commenced the so-called "500+" programme under which all parents residing in Poland receive an unconditional monthly payment of 500 PLN for each second and subsequent child. It also revived the idea of a housing programme based on state-supported construction of inexpensive housing units.
Also in 2017, the party's MPs passed a law that bans most retail trade on Sundays so that workers can spend more time with their families.
Abortion stanceEven as Poland's abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the European Union, PiS additionally opposes abortion resulting from foetal defects which is currently allowed until specific foetal age. Despite that PiS has not changed the abortion law in this regard.
The party is also against euthanasia and comprehensive sex education. It has also proposed a ban of in-vitro fertilisation.
Disability rightsIn April 2018, the PiS government announced a PLN 23 billion programme aimed at reducing barriers for disabled people, to be implemented 2018–2025.
Also in April 2018, parents of disabled adults who required long-term care protested in Sejm over what they considered inadequate state support, in particular, the reduction of support once the child turns 18. As a result, the monthly disability benefit for adults was raised by approx. 15 percent to PLN 1,000 and certain non-cash benefits were instituted, although protesters' demands of an additional monthly cash benefit were rejected.
Gay rightsThe party opposes LGBT rights, in particular same-sex marriages and any other form of legal recognition of same-sex couples.
On 21 September 2005, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński said that "homosexuals should not be isolated, however they should not be school teachers for example. Active homosexuals surely not, in any case", but that homosexuals "should not be discriminated otherwise". He has also stated, "The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can't agree to it". Lech Kaczynski, while mayor of Warsaw, refused authorization for a gay pride march; declaring that it would be obscene and offensive to other people's religious beliefs. A Warsaw court later ruled that Kaczynski's actions were illegal. Kaczyński was quoted as saying, "I am not willing to meet perverts."
In 2016 Beata Szydło's government disbanded the Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance, an advisory body set up in 2011 by then-Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The council monitored, advised and coordinated government action against racism, discrimination and hate crime.
The local towns, cities, and Voivodeship sejmiks have declared their respective regions as LGBT ideology-free zone with the encouragement of the ruling PiS.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was the Law and Justice party's candidate for presidency in 2015 and 2020, described the LGBT movement as "a foreign ideology". During his 2020 successful election campaign, he pledged he would ban teaching about LGBT issues in schools and he proposed changing the constitution to ban LGBT couples from adopting children.
NationalismDespite being labeled by many former Western Bloc States as a "nationalist" party, PiS' leadership constantly criticizes being offered such label. During the 2008 Polish Independence Day celebrations, Lech Kaczyński said in his speech during the visit to the city of Elbląg that "the state is a great value, and attachment to the state, to one's fatherland, we call patriotism - beware of the word nationalism, as nationalism is evil!" On the same day during the celebrations in Warsaw, L. Kaczyński again stated: "patriotism doesn't equal nationalism." In 2011, Jarosław Kaczyński criticized pre-war Polish nationalism for "its intellectual, political and moral failure" by emphasising that the movement "did not know how to deal with and solve the problems of Polish minorities." Both Kaczyńskis twins look up for inspirations to the pre-war Sanacja movement with its leader Józef Piłsudski, in contrast to the nationalist Endecja that was led by Piłsudski's political archrival, Roman Dmowski. In February 2016, politician Paweł Kowal called Jarosław Kaczyński a "centre-right politician" who "just like Piłsudski before the war, he stopped the raise of nationalism in Poland at the time when such ideology clearly gains politically in Western Europe." Polish far-right organizations and parties such as National Revival of Poland, National Movement and Autonomous Nationalists regularly criticize PiS' relative ideological moderation and its politicians for "monopolizing" official political scene by playing on the popular patriotic and religious feelings. However, the party does include several overtly nationalist politicians in senior positions, such as Digital Affairs Minister Adam Andruszkiewicz, the former leader of the All-Polish Youth; and deputy PiS leader and former Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, the founder of the National-Catholic Movement.
Refugee and economic migrant policiesPiS opposed the quota system for mass relocation of immigrants proposed by the European Commission to address the 2015 European migrant crisis. This contrasted with the stance of their main political opponents, the Civic Platform, which have signed up to the Commission's proposal. Consequently, in the campaign leading to the 2015 Polish parliamentary election, PiS adopted the discourse typical of the populist-right, linking national security with immigration. Following the election, PiS sometimes utilised Islamophobic rhetoric to rally its supporters.
Examples of anti-migration and anti-Islam comments by PiS politicians when discussing the European migrant crisis: in 2015, Jarosław Kaczyński stated that Poland "can't" accept any refugees because "they could spread infectious diseases." In 2017, the first Deputy Minister of Justice Patryk Jaki stated that "stopping Islamization is his Westerplatte". In 2017, Interior minister of Poland Mariusz Błaszczak stated that he would like to be called "Charles the Hammer who stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe in the 8th century". In 2017, Deputy Speaker of the Sejm Joachim Brudziński stated during the pro-party rally in Siedlce; "if not for us, they would have built mosques in here."
Internal factionsLaw and Justice is divided into many internal factions, but they can be grouped into three main blocks.
Order of the Centre Agreement is unofficial name of the most influential, although not the most numerous fraction of PiS. It's leader is Jarosław Kaczyński, main members are Joachim Brudziński, Adam Lipiński and Mariusz Błaszczak.
Second of PiS' groups is radical, religious and hard eurosceptic right-wing faction focused around Antoni Macierewicz, Beata Szydło and United Poland party of Zbigniew Ziobro. The faction stays in opposition to Mateusz Morawiecki, opts for radical reforms and is supported by Jacek Kurski and Tadeusz Rydzyk.
Third faction is christian democratic, republican and conservative liberal group focused around Mateusz Morawiecki, Łukasz Szumowski, Jacek Czaputowicz and Agreement of Jarosław Gowin. It's supported by Jarosław Kaczyński, but not by all Centre Agreement faction.
There is also small presidential faction of Andrzej Duda.
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- Currently 16: Zdzisław Krasnodębski is elected from the PiS register, but not a member of the party, Mirosław Piotrowski left PiS, Marek Jurek is a member of Right Wing of the Republic.
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