IF EUROPEAN history once seemed to have arrived at its terminus in 1989, it has sped off in a new direction in Poland. After winning the country’s first post-1989 outright majority in elections one year ago, the populist Law and Justice party (PiS) immediately set about undermining independent checks on its power, from the constitutional court to public media. Such antics would disqualify an aspirant from membership of the European Union, but it is harder to punish miscreants once they are inside. Surrounded by problems outside its borders, from Russia to Turkey to Libya, the EU now confronts a particularly chewy one within.
Outsiders sometimes lump Poland’s government in with the other populists making the running in much of western Europe. But while it shares their hostility to outsiders and taste for economic statism, PiS is a very Polish phenomenon. Its chairman, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who runs the country from the party’s headquarters (the prime minister, Beata Szydlo, is a cipher who does her leader’s bidding), is fixed on completing what he considers an unfinished revolution. Mr Kaczynski believes the Polish state was captured by a cosy, treacherous elite after 1989, with the connivance of the EU. His aim is to overturn and replace it.
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