The abuse of power in Poland, including corruption, is a complex, systemic phenomenon that escapes narrow definitions or criminal code regulations. Since coming to power in 2015, the ruling party has steadily laid the foundation for grand corruption, understood as a monopoly on power, arbitrary decisions, lack of transparency and accountability, and particularism (including political clientelism), with the particularistic redistribution of public goods (such as posts or funds) aimed at satisfying the party base’s interests.

Experts and researchers studying the quality of public life are aware that this is a growing problem and that it results from the conscious policy of Law and Justice (PiS in Polish) party, which ruled Poland until the 2023 elections. It involved the steady lowering of the standards of the rule of law; above all, abandoning the principles of the separation of powers and the rule of checks and balances. The executive – or more precisely, its party base – became dominant. Parliament was steadily weakened; in particular, when it comes to providing a check on the executive and, especially in the parliament dominated by PiS, a place for public debate and exchanging views on state policy. Since 2015, we were observing a constant attack on the third branch of government in Poland: the judiciary. The ruling party increased pressure on judges, seeking to limit their autonomy and independence, and striving to subordinate the judiciary to its priorities. The prosecutor’s office, a key state body in the fight against corruption and abuse of power, was almost completely subordinated to the authorities. Restoring the model of prosecutor’s office in which a politically-appointed minister is also prosecutor general, and expanding his powers in a way that enables him to freely interfere in any rank-and-file prosecutor’s work, created a structure in which the people with political control over the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement agencies can remain unpunished. Decisions on whether or not prosecutors investigate suspected crimes involving politicians and officials from the ruling party – and whether or not these cases were even considered in court, where they can finally be clarified – were political. Citizens and watchdogs tasked with keeping the authorities in check are deprived of basic tools, such as guarantees concerning access to public information. People who have the courage to speak out about abuse in the workplace – in other words, whistleblowers – are still not protected by law. The authorities are in no hurry to improve their situation, which could be accomplished by implementing EU regulations. All this adds up to a crisis of the rule of law, broadly understood. In these circumstances, it is difficult to speak of the state’s resilience to abuse of power and corruption.

This analysis seeks to highlight the complexity of contemporary corruption and how difficult it is to counteract abuse by the people in power. Our aim is to stimulate public debate and, in doing so, raise awareness of just how dangerous abuse and corruption are.



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Publikacja przygotowana została przez Zespół Ekspertów Wyborczych Fundacji im. Stefana Batorego oraz zaproszonych ekspertów spoza jego składu i wydana wspólnie z Wydawnictwem Naukowym SCHOLAR.