An independent judiciary is a hallmark of a democratic system. This summer in Poland, the parliament passed several bills that would have brought judges under control of the Ministry of Justice. Thousands protested—including a vigil before the supreme court, which has been sidelined. Will protests matter? Parliament and the presidency are controlled by the populistnationalist Law and Justice party, which rose to power on economic frustration in rural areas and anti-immigrant sentiment. Without a supreme court as a brake, notes Professor of Political Science Jane Curry, “There is no rule of law and no constitutional limit on what the majority can do in parliament.” Public radio and television have been turned into cheerleading, state-controlled media.
Curry is an expert on Polish politics and was the first Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of Warsaw. She teaches summers in its Center for East European Studies, drawing students from the former Soviet Union. This year she was presented with the University of Warsaw Medal of Honor for Service and Scholarship. And with student assistant Aurora Zahm ’18, she finished a new edition of her book Central and East European Politics—which notes how fragile democracy can be.