To everyone’s surprise, President Duda–who earned himself the nickname of Kaczynski’s “pen” or “notary” for his entirely submissive posture toward the head of Poland’s ruling political camp–stood up to his former party. He vetoed two of the laws passed by parliament, those concerning the National Court Register and the Supreme Court, and signed the third.
Let’s draw some conclusions and make some predictions:
1. There will be a war within the ruling party. Even if he does not move to do so right away, Kaczynski will want to destroy Duda. He has a significant advantage over the president, who lacks a base of support within PiS and has not built up a core constituency or anything that would enable him to seek a second term independent of PiS support. Kaczynski has no use for an independent president, and would in fact find one cumbersome.
2. A war within the ruling camp may well end up being suicidal. Civil wars have destroyed Kaczynski more than once. That is what happened in the early ’90s, when Kaczynski engaged in a factional struggle against Lech Walesa, and in 2007, when he declared war on his coalition partner. In both instances, he led to his own self-destruction. This is perhaps the beginning of a third such case. PiS appears to be a monolith from the outside, but the party is rife with internal hatreds. Politicians with access to the security services sureveil their party colleagues more often than members of the opposition. If Duda has indeed started a war, other factions within PiS may be quick to turn against each other. The Polish public sphere is filled with former PiS politicians, foremost among them the “third twin,” Ludwik Dorn, who were politically assasinated by Kaczynski, but in the end Kaczynski would always fall victim himself.
3. Duda vetoed two laws, but he signed the law on common courts, which is a very harmful piece of legislation as it gives the Minister of Justice influence over the courts. The party has expanded its influence, and that is not good news. Let us not deceive ourselves–Duda has not become an ally. We should congratulate him on his courage, but let us not forget that he has announced that he will formulate his own draft legislation on the National Court Register and the Supreme Court. They may prove very similar to the two laws that have just been vetoed, just taking into account the ultimatum the president issued last week. The opposition is already proclaiming that the Polish people have accomplished something great. We have the right to be satisfied, but we should not be blinded by our satisfaction.
4. Protests make sense. Protesters have received a clear signal that whenever the government attempts to harm our country, they should come out into the streets in force. Because that will make a difference.
We finally have a win, and that gives us strength. This is a very important development. Let us keep the faith. We can prevail.