Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, has said that he hopes “repolonisation” of the media can be carried out during the current parliamentary term. He admitted, however, that the “international reaction” may make this difficult.
During the same interview, Kaczyński discussed the recent presidential election, which he described as a “civilisational clash” in which Poland rejected “slavery”; plans for an imminent government reshuffle, which he assured will not affect the prime minister; and the question of who may one day succeed him as leader of the ruling camp.
Kaczyński holds no state office beyond being a member of parliament. In practice, however, he is the dominant figure behind the government, meaning that his rare interviews and speeches are closely watched.
“Repolonisation of the media”
During Duda’s re-election bid, which was supported by PiS, the party’s long-planned aims for “repolonisation” of the media – that is, reducing or eliminating foreign ownership of Polish outlets – were revived.
The president and his supporters criticised the role that foreign-owned Polish media played in the campaign, claiming in particular that Germany was “interfering” in the election on behalf of the opposition.
Speaking on Polskie Radio, Kaczyński said that Poland “needs to follow the example of Western countries, which fiercely defend their sovereignty in this area”.
The PiS chairman said that “various regulations exist in the West and we must invoke them”. However, he added that he “does not want to say which” regulations in the West he was referring to.
“We are analysing it, there are discussions of this issue”, but it should not be rushed, he added. But for the time being, Kaczyński said, “there are no specific plans or bills”.
His words stand in contrast to those of a deputy justice minister, Jarosław Sellin, who in September 2017 said that a draft law on limiting foreign ownership of Polish media was ready and “just waiting for a political decision”.
When asked if it would be possible to do this during the current parliamentary term, which runs until 2023, Kaczyński said that “at a legislative level” this would be achievable.
However, he admitted that “the success of this process is related to all sorts of other types of changes that need to be introduced in our country, and also certain international reactions”.
Kaczyński’s words hint at the main hurdle to the hoped-for “repolonisation”. Most foreign-owned media in Poland belong in part or in whole to German concerns, and efforts to challenge this could violate EU law.
Meanwhile another of PiS’s targets, private broadcaster TVN, is owned by Discovery, and has been fiercely defended by the US ambassador. The PiS government and President Duda are keen to maintain good ties with Washington.
For the second time in a week, the US ambassador to Poland has criticised a leading figure from Poland's ruling party.
She said that PiS's deputy leader made an "awful, hateful" statement when he wrote that PO, the party of the opposition presidential candidate, "supports… 1/3 pic.twitter.com/FSSpgG841F
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 13, 2020
Kaczyński also reflected on Duda’s recently election victory, calling it a “very important success”. The PiS chairman repeated themes he had referred to before the vote, arguing that the very future of Poland as a state and as a nation had been at stake:
This was a civilisational clash…between those who want to open Poland to the revolution that is taking place in Western Europe, to impose it on Poles, and those who are aware enough to know that this will bring nothing good to Poland – on the contrary, it could do a lot of harm. [Our opponents] wanted to bring about a situation that, over time, could bring into question the existence of our state, and in the long run even of our nation. If someone believes that they are Polish, they must be on the side that defends traditional values.
One of the main aims of these revolutionaries, claimed Kaczyński, is to “break down traditional structures and values, with the family at the forefront”. They often do so by appealing to “the most primitive senses…[with] sex always at the centre of this whole proposition”.
By doing so, they would create a “society deprived of identity, without any fixed point of attachment, [that] will simply be an easy object of manipulation”, warned Kaczyński. “It will be a kind of unconscious slavery…[Only] those civilisations that do not accept this model will win.”
Kaczyński claimed that Rafał Trzaskowski, the opposition presidential candidate who lost narrowly to Duda in the presidential election run-off, was a representative of this dangerous “leftist” ideology.
“Thanks to the power of the media that supported him, Rafał Trzaskowski created the impression that he was a man who could bring Poland together,” Kaczyński told Polskie Radio. “[In fact], he is one of the last people who could [do so].”
Kaczyński described Trzaskowski as a “chameleon” who took advantage of the fact that, before standing for election, he was “a little-known person…an anonymous figure for many Poles”, which allowed him to present himself as something he was not.
As mayor of Warsaw, Trzaskowski has presented a fairly liberal face, including expressing support for LGBT rights. During the presidential campaign, however, he took a more conservative tone as he sought to broaden his appeal.
“The prime minister will remain”
Kaczyński confirmed recent rumours of an impending government reshuffle. “There will be personnel changes…The government is to be structured differently,” he said, adding that the changes would take place after the summer break.
The main aim is to streamline the government. Currently, “some decisions must pass through several ministries”, creating a process that is “dispersed and does not lead to anything good”.
There has been speculation for weeks about which ministers could be replaced. One candidate – foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz – yesterday confirmed in an interview with Rzeczpospolita that he would be leaving, saying it had been agreed “a few months ago” and that now “is a good time to change [who is] at the head of our diplomacy”.
Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz says in an interview with Rzeczpospolita daily that he is set to leave the Government in a post-election reshuffle planned later this year
— Jakub Krupa (@JakubKrupa) July 19, 2020
However, Kaczyński denied claims that the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, could be among those to depart. “The prime minister is staying, there is no question of a change,” he said.
Rumours over Morawiecki’s position are linked to reported factional disputes within the governing camp, the United Right, which is an alliance of PiS and two smaller partners, Agreement (Porozumienie) and United Poland (Solidarna Polska).
With Kaczyński now in his 70s, debate over who could seek to replace him as leader of the right has intensified. Among those at the centre of alleged manoeuvring are Morawiecki as well as Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister and leader of United Right, and Jarosław Gowin, the head of Agreement.
In his interview with Polskie Radio, Kaczyński admitted that in a large political camp such as this, “various tensions arise and sometimes become public, as has been the case recently”.
“I have to take into account…the ambitions of the already mature generation of 50-something-year-olds who are waiting for their time,” said Kaczyński. I do not want to block this path for them, because it would be imprudent, improper and also harmful”.
There has been unease within the ruling camp since October's parliamentary elections, when the two junior coalition partners each doubled their share of seats at the expense of PiS. The kerfuffle over whether to hold the 10th May elections increased those tensions.
— Daniel Tilles (@danieltilles1) July 13, 2020
Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Gazeta
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.