In The News: How Poland’s right-wing politicians are reshaping society

Donald Tusk wants this ‘black dream’ to be over, but what do people on the ground think?

On In The News, Sorcha Pollak talks to Irish Times Berlin Correspondent Derek Scally.

On In The News, Sorcha Pollak talks to Irish Times Berlin Correspondent Derek Scally.


Earlier this month, former European Council president Donald Tusk was elected head of Poland’s strongest opposition party. Mr Tusk said he was returning to politics in his home country to help fight the “evil” of the right-wing Law and Justice party which has been in power since 2015.

The former prime minister’s return to Polish politics follows a number of changes to the Polish judicial system including a ruling by the constitutional court earlier this year to ban abortions in cases of foetal abnormalities.

Last week, a bill was brought to the Polish parliament by PiS politicians to prevent “outside bodies” from influencing public debate in Poland without the approval of Poland’s broadcaster regulator. The move is regarded as another step in the government’s reform of Poland’s public broadcaster TVP – a station described by the Reporters Without Borders NGO as a “government propaganda mouthpiece”.

The EU says these changes are undermining democracy while hundreds of thousands of people, including judges and lawyers, have taken to the streets to protest the reforms.

Mr Tusk, who co-founded the centre-liberal Civic Platform party in 2001, has aid many Poles are “waiting for this black dream to be over” and that he and his party are “ready to fight against this evil”.

But what do Polish people on the ground want to see? Are they worried about the judicial changes being implemented by the Law and Justice party and plans for the “re-polonisation” of the country’s media landscape, or are people on lower incomes content with a government which has introduced some hugely popular economic measures including a boost to child support and pensions.

Irish Times Berlin Correspondent Derek Scally, who regularly writes about Poland for the paper, spoke to presenter Sorcha Pollak about how the Polish public has responded to this latest series of reforms.

Critics of the government say these are populist measures being used by the ruling party to frame itself as “the only defender of Polish national identity and values”, said Scally.

The more progressive voters in Poland – those who are fighting the abortion ban and LGBTQ+ groups who are facing threats and violence to their lives – feel abandoned by their European neighbours, he added.

“This is a battle for Poland but also a battle between nationalist populism and progressive liberalism – in the middle of Europe. It’s a more obvious, more blunt battle in Poland and Hungary, but these battles are happening everywhere in Europe.”

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope.

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