Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"The Good of the People Comes Before the Law." The Bullet We Dodged?

Thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada we never had to learn how far Stephen Harper would have been willing to go in indulging his authoritarian instincts had he not been held in check.

Harper came to power on two promises. He would deliver transparency and accountability. He immediately reneged on both. False flags don't come much clearer than that. He used omnibus legislation to deny accountability and iron fist secrecy to utterly thwart transparency. It was on the scale of diabolical.

During Harper's minority, when the Liberals stood flummoxed and the NDP were mainly focused on finishing off the Liberals rather than fighting Harper, and especially during Harper's majority, Canada's democracy was defended by the final steninel, the Supreme Court of Canada. It was the SCC that refused to allow an authoritarian prime minister to run roughshod over our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Oh how Harper and his minions railed at the arrogance and audacity of the Supreme Court justices who upheld the Charter, again and again and again. Peter MacKay even acknowledged that his coven introduced legislation that they knew offended the spirit and probably the letter of the law, always hoping to push the boundaries of constitutional efficacy.

What they were up to, Harper's Holy Grail, was to weaken liberal democracy, the essence of which is a framework of constitutional laws that limits government power and affords a legal means to curb its excesses. What they strived for was illiberal democracy.

What might have been, who knows? However it's hard not to look at the plague of nationalist populism spreading through Europe without getting a few chills. Liberal democracy is not doing well in parts of post-Soviet Europe. Fascism embedded within illiberal democracy is on the rise. First it was Hungary. Now it's Poland.

After eight years in office, the liberal Civic Platform (PO) was cut down to size and banished to opposition. while Poland’s left did not even make it into the new parliament. All this despite the fact that while in the period 2008-2014 Poland’s accumulated growth was 28 per cent, the EU’s growth at that time was 2.5 per cent annually.

Sound Familiar?

Instead, more than 50 per cent of those who voted (about half of the electorate), opted for change. Just 38 per cent handed a victory to Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s national conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) and, for the first time since the transition to democracy in 1989, a single party could form a government in Poland.

However, after Kaczynski absented himself from a campaign that pushed moderate slogans and reasonable faces, it is clear that that PiS and its leader misled the electorate.

Within weeks, this new government has attacked the very basis of the liberal democratic order and its institutional check-and-balances: the constitutional tribunal.

Fearing that Poland’s highest court might declare some new legislation unconstitutional, the PiS has introduced laws that render the tribunal powerless. It has allowed for political appointees to head the civil service at all levels and made the public media directly dependent on government. Independent prosecutors will soon be subjugated to the minister of justice and the whole justice system will be overhauled.

There is much more of this to come. And it will come quickly. Jaroslaw Kaczynski holds no government position but, as leader of the PiS, he enjoys the undivided loyalty of his followers and of the new president, Andrzej Duda, who obediently follows the PiS party line.

As Poland’s real leader, Kaczynski has declared that he wants to follow the example of Hungary’s Victor Orb├ín and his model of “illiberal democracy” with the primacy of political will over the law. During a recent parliamentary debate, a statement that “the good of the people comes before the law” was met with a standing ovation by the PiS majority. Several bishops have declared that “natural law” and morality comes before the constitution.

The Poles have become a deeply divided society, a bellweather of wedge politics so instrumental to illiberal democracy. No one knows what lies ahead but there's a growing fear of violence and the eventual isolation of the Polish state, quarantined by its fellow EU states wrestling with their own demons of nationalist populism.


Unknown said...

Interesting Mound that Poland, who was under Soviet dictatorial rule, of which the Poles and rightfully so, despised, are now succumbing to their own self made dictatorial rule.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think a good many of the Polish people, including a lot who voted for PiS believing its promises, are opposed to Kaczynski and his plans. It remains to be seen whether this will evolve into a constitutional coup d'etat in which democratic rights and freedoms are, under some guise or another, suspended.

You and I, Pamela, were brought up convinced of the inherent robustness of democracy. Today we're seeing that it can fall apart with relative ease if it's not fiercely defended against all threats, external and internal alike.

Unknown said...

It does me good to see that there were many people besides myself who saw democracy being eroded. I did not read every detail of the UNs Agenda 21 but, as with the middle class, I believe that in some quiet back room Democracy itself was also seen as unsustainable. The very people who came up with the basis for these "sustainability" beliefs, a smarmy right winger and an avowed socialist, and the plan for the 21st century both seemd capable of such thinking.

The right wing in more than one country working toward the same end seems more than chance and I don't know of anywhere that socialism endures democracy,

Unknown said...

Yes Mound, we have learned "it can fall apart with relative ease." Farley Mowat said in regards to Harper dismantling our democracy, "and we now know our democracy is a fragile thing." When the governments we vote in who are supposed to protect and support our democracy, instead set out to destroy it like Harper did, we then must be ever vigilant.Through out history it seems that tyranny seems to win out. We seem to have a period of time where we are free and then gradually authoritarianism seeps in and eventually takes over. We seem to be repeating this over and over again.Look at the right wing governments that have taken hold in Europe. They are building a world hierarchical structure, where it won't matter who holds the power,just like in the US. There is becoming a certain right wing world view taking hold along with a ruling group, who selects who the next successor will be. Global Neoliberalism is the driver of course of these right wing governments.It's fundamental to the building of the American Empire. It also destroys democratic sovereign Nations. I wonder though how people will be able to protect their democracy, when the very system that destroys democracy, Neoliberalism is something people know nothing about. The very name of the enemy of democracy, when said is met with a blank stare. It doesn't make me feel to secure about sustaining our democracy.

Kim said...

Not for Publication.

You often mention your social media. Are you on facebook? I would like to follow you there. You can find me Kim Poirier on facebook. (The one from Sooke, not the Quebec one ) Or send me an email


crf said...

The Irish Times article says Poland's economy grew 28% over the period, while the EU's, at 2.5% annual growth over the 7 years would be ~19%. (I'm assuming the reported growth is over 7 years, I didn't check.) It's still a difference in favour of Poland. But not that great, considering how awful the economies of many EU members were during that period, and the relative poorness of Poland which suggests it ought to grow faster than more developed economies in the EU.