Divisive Polish Politics still in the Spotlight Abroad and Domestically

Poland, 01 Feb - 30 Jan 2016
PiS government under magnifying glass ++ How a waste separation campaign sparked debate on gender ideology ++ Polish movies recognized at the Sundance Film Festival. by Monika Kostecka
PiS government under magnifying glass

Since January, the Polish government is facing international criticism as well as large social waves of protest. Foreign media frequently scrutinized Polish politics: Especially the conflict over the Constitutional Court, controversies over the new law on public media and the new surveillance law. In response, the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) claimed foreign journalists lacked knowledge of current Polish affairs. Poles reporting to the foreign media their discontent with the latest changes have been called “unpatriotic”.

The European Commission called for a debate to discuss the Rule of Law in Poland and afterwards launched a dialogue under the Rule of Law Framework. Many Poles saw this as an interference in internal affairs and criticized the EU. Even opposition members. According to the prevailing opinion in Poland, such issues should be dealt with without foreign intervention.

However, the recent legal changes have shown that the Polish society is very vivid and sensitive, as well as eager to organize itself to demonstrate against the government. In January, thousands of Poles took to the streets to protest against PiS politics, to defend the freedom of public media and the independence of the constitutional court, and against an amended police law. Demonstrations were organized by the newly founded Committee for Defense of Democracy (KOD). The issue received worldwide attention: In Berlin, New York and Tokyo protesters took to the streets. Demonstrators organized themselves mostly via Facebook. The official page of the Committee on the social platform, has already reached more than 150 thousand followers.

According to the leader of the KOD, Mateusz Kijowski, “the majority in the Parliament has the right to change the country, it has the right to fulfill pre-election promises, to implement their programs, it has the right to change the policy, but it has no right to change the foundations of the democratic system”. In his opinion. Citizen rights, free public media and constitutional Court independence have been taken from the Poles, says Kijowski. Poles would also lose their right to privacy, should a law enhancing surveillance be passed.

In contrast, according to PiS, people showing up at KOD's demonstrations are afraid of losing their privileges and give away the power they held under the previous government. Moreover, the changes in the public media are supposed to bring a long awaited pluralism. In order to prove their right in the conflict over the Constitutional Court, PiS requested the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe’s body, composed of independent experts in the field of constitutional law) for their opinion in this regard.

How a waste separation campaign sparked debate on gender ideology

The Polish Ministry of Environment commissioned a campaign to increase awareness for waste separation. TV spots feature Wojciech Amaro (44), a restaurateur awarded a Michelin star and Maciej Nowak (52), a food critic and a member of Top Chef Poland jury.

In one of the spots, both men are accompanied by a small boy in the kitchen. Amaro asks the boy in which bin to through various waste. “This is how the master separates” Amaro jokes, referring to his profession. “In your kitchen nothing is wasted” concludes Nowak.

In the beginning, this half-minute long spot has been promoted in TV and the Internet, however, the ministry has had it withdrawn, officially due to economic aspects and "soft gender placement". The new deputy environment minister, Slawomir Mazurek, explained “we must not hide, that people taking part in this spot (...) are, however, in a movement promoting gender ideology.” He also critizised the spots as being untraditional. Even though it was not stated openly, these words might refer to Maciej Mazurek, who is openly homosexual.

According to the environment minister, Jan Szyszko, “the Ministry of the Environment is a resort that is very strongly oriented on the defence of the Polish identity, Polish interests, and what is the most important in Poland – the defence of the family and our cultural identity associated with the Christian heritage”. Polish law only recognizes heterosexual marriages.

Polish movies recognized at the Sundance Film Festival

At the latest Sundance Film Festival, one of the World’s most famous festivals of independent cinematography, two polish movies obtained a great recognition. Michal Marczak received the Directing Award for All These Sleepless Nights in the World Cinema Documentary category.

During the award ceremony, Marczak’s movie was described as “a visually stunning film. Pushing the art of non-fiction into brave new territories.” The movie observes the Warsaw night life and tries to capture the spirit of young Poles who entered their twenties.

The second Polish movie won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Unique Vision and Design. The Lure, by Agnieszka Smoczyńska, was remembered by the Sundance jury as “a film that really captured our imaginations. We couldn’t get it out of our minds.” The movie is embedded in a surreal convention of somnolence musical and shows a half-real Warsaw from the eighties. In the center of this imaginary vision are two young sisters entering the world of desires and love, luring with their dangerous charm. The director herself calls the movie "a perverse, metropolitan fairy tale for adults".

Source: Gregor Zukowski | CC BY-SA 2.0

#KOD demonstration in Warsaw against surveillance law and recent government policy

Related topics

Committee for Defense of Democracy (KOD)
Constitutional Court
gender issues
Sundance Film Festival

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