Poland Monthly Digest: Olga Tokarczuk Is Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and PiS Continues to Rule the Country5 min read

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– On September 20th, dozens of Polish cities were occupied by youth protesting climate change as a part of the international initiative “Thousand Cities March” organized by the Youth Climate Strike. Residents of cities like Krakow, Lublin, Poznan and Warsaw demanded immediate action from the government. People were chanting slogans and carrying banners advocating awareness and action to reduce the effects of climate change. Participants emphasized that the Polish government must take real action against climate change such as reducing CO2 emissions. 

The protest was organized all over the world in connection with the United Nations Climate Summit in New York.

– On September 23rd, TVN aired an investigation into the  asset declaration of newly appointed President of the Supreme Audit Bureau Marian Banaś. The investigation revealed that Banaś had not only failed to mention owning real estate in Krakow, but the townhouse had been set up as a brothel by its tenant, who already had a criminal record. Mr. Banaś responded to TVN, claiming that he had sold the property earlier this year and thus had no knowledge of what kind of activities the building is used for. 

Mr. Banaś was appointed President of the Supreme Audit Bureau on August 30th, replacing Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, who had headed the office since 2013. 

The Central Anti-Corruption Bureau had already opened an investigation against Mr. Banaś and his asset declaration in April 2019, despite this, Mr. Banaś received his appointment at the end of August. 

– On September 27th, The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights issued a report in which they stated that under the current rule of the PiS party, human rights standards  in Poland had declined the most since 1989. The report reads that non-democratic reforms in the judiciary and prosecutor offices, the increasing politicization of media, and recurring attacks on the LGBT community have increased since PiS took power four years ago.

Olga Tokarczuk was announced as the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in literature on October 10th. Image source

– On October 10th the Noble Prize Committee announced that the Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk had won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature along with Austrian writer Peter Handke, who won it for this year. Ms. Tokarczuk is a well-known polish novelist who has been recognized with the highest national literature prizes. Her best-known novels are “The Books of Jacob”, “Flights” and “House of Day, House of Night”.

– On October 13th Poland held its federal elections. As expected PiS won elections in the Sejm, the lower house of Polish Parliament, with an overwhelming majority of 43.59%, i.e. 51% (235 seats out of 460) of the seats. The second-biggest power in the Sejm is Civic Coalition, which occupies 12.56% of the seats (49 total). For the first time, an openly nationalistic and Eurosceptic coalition of parties called Confederation, Freedom and Independence entered the Parliament with 11 seats.

The biggest surprise was that PiS lost its majority in the Senate, which is the higher chamber of the Parliament, where out of 100 seats PiS now has only 48. They will share the Senate with: Civic Coalition (43 seats), the Polish People’s Party (3 seats), the Left Coalition (2 seats) and Lidia Staroń Committee – Always on the People’s Side (1 seat).

PiS and the Confederation Freedom and Independence brought up LGBT issues as part of their political campaign before the elections, framing it as an ideological threat. Image source

The electoral campaign was dominated by PiS’ social spending over the last four years. During the campaign, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki promised further benefits for families and seniors. Likewise, PiS and the Confederation Freedom and Independence made LGBT issues one of the main issues of their campaigns, openly opposing LGBT movements as an ideological threat.

Next year, President Andrzej Duda’s mandate will expire and Poles will be choosing a new president. On October 30th, Civil Coalition leader Grzegorz Schetyna suggested that by November 21st, Donald Tusk, current President of the European Council and former Prime Minister of Poland, might confirm his presidential candidacy. As of press time, Mr. Tusk has neither confirmed nor denied his future political plans.

– On October 16th, protesters gathered in front of the Parliament to oppose a newly imposed law that may threaten sex educators. The controversial changes to the criminal code concerns the penalization of those who propagate and encourage any sexual behavior among people under the age of consent. Amnesty International called the bill’s wording “extremely vague and broad”. On the same day, the lower chamber of Parliament voted to pass the amendments and therefore move them to the Special Committee for Changes in the Codifications.

This is not the first time that PiS has tried to constrain sexual liberties in Poland. Back in June 2019, during the EU Parliamentary elections, when the liberal-progressive mayor of Warsaw signed a declaration supporting LGBT rights, PiS politicians condemned his act.  On other occasions, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński has spoken unfavorably about pride parades, and claimed that LGBT ideology is sexualizing kids. Now Polish schools are conducting classes called “Preparation for family life”.

– On October 28th, the  Internal Security Agency arrested a Polish national and charged him with the readiness to spy on behalf of a foreign intelligence service against the Republic of Poland. According to TVP Info, he was employed at the Military Property Agency. 

– On October 31st, aspokesperson for the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ) in Luxembourg announced that Poland, Czechia, and Hungary had acted against the law of the European Union by declining to follow their refugee relocation program.

Main sources: DW.com (EN), National Election Committee (PL), OKO.Press (PL), PAP (PL), Politico (EN), The New York Times (EN), The Noble Prize (EN), TVN24 (PL)

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