The Case for Constitutional Reform in Poland

Poland resisted an authoritarian communist government during the 1980s with the Solidarity movement. In 2015, the far-right Law and Justice Party won control of the lower house of parliament, and promises for a crackdown on corruption have given way to targeting public broadcasting and the independent judiciary, weakening democracy. Democracy loses legitimacy when governments can leverage a minority popular vote into a legislative majority, explains Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University. Constitutional reforms are required, and Ackerman offers suggestions. In Poland, parties must meet a requisite threshold, 5 percent of the votes, to gain seats in the Sejm, or lower house of parliament: Most recently, Law and Justice won 38 percent of the vote, yet holds a majority of seats, and a similar upset happened in 1993. For such cases, Ackerman suggests requiring new elections within a year to encourage parties forming broad-based coalitions. He also proposes “a more ‘federal’ constitution that would de-fuse their current bitter conflict over religious questions.” Grassroots opposition may rally before the 2019 parliamentary elections, and as Ackerman writes, “It is up to the Polish people to determine whether the spirit of Solidarity remains a living force in the life of the nation.” – YaleGlobal

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