Poland

   

Executive Accountability

#31
Key Findings
With polarization increasing, Poland receives comparatively poor rankings (rank 31) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.9 points since 2014.

While parliamentarians have ample resources and strong formal executive-oversight powers, the PiS government has undermined or disregarded opposition efforts in particular. The parliamentary majority has acted slowly to appoint audit-office members, undermining its work. The ombudsman has been an active defender of civil and political rights, taking anti-government stances.

While citizens’ policy knowledge remains low on average, dissatisfaction with the government’s policies has heightened many people’s interest. The public media now reflect government positions, but the quality of reporting has increased within the private media.

Most parties are hierarchically organized. Economic-interest associations are relatively active and developed, with unions supporting the PiS. The Catholic Church has good government access, but has called for a more humane approach to refugees. A new social movement has united many Poles in opposition to anti-democratic government policies, with young people especially active.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#36

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
5
Despite recent attempts to improve access to government information, the average level of knowledge regarding government policy within the Polish public remains limited. Reasons include a tendency toward infotainment in many media outlets, the populist propaganda produced by the government party, and a general detachment from politics among the citizenry. Moreover, political parties, trade unions and most other professional associations do not properly perform their socialization function, and fail to improve their members’ policy knowledge. However, a segment of society has become more interested in politics by strong dissatisfaction with the PiS government’s policies.

Citations:
Cześnik, M., A. Kwiatkowska, R. Markowski (2016): Co Polacy wiedzą o polityce? Niewiele, in: Polityka, April 26.

Żerkowska-Balas, M., M. Cześnik, M. Zaremba (2017): Dynamika wiedza politycznej Polaków, in: Studia Socjologiczne, 226: 7-31.

Szlendak, T. (2017): Die Jugend und die Politik, Polen-Analysen Nr. 205, Bremen (http://www.laender-analysen.de/polen/pdf/PolenAnalysen205.pdf).

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#19

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
7
The members of the Sejm, the Polish parliament, have permanent support staff and can draw on the Sejm’s library and the expertise of the Sejm’s Bureau of Research (BAS). In addition to researching legal issues, the BAS publishes a newsletter, discussion papers and a peer-reviewed quarterly Law Review (Zeszyty Prawnicze BAS). However, the quality of expertise provided by the BAS has declined since the parliamentary elections in 2015. Moreover, the PiS majority has made the monitoring of the government difficult by not publicizing its plans for new legislation, by circumventing the normal procedures by letting individual members of parliament submit draft laws and by passing legislation very quickly.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
7
On paper, parliamentary committees have full access to government documents. Members of parliament may demand information from government officials, either in written or verbal form, at the sitting of the Sejm plenary or at a committee meeting. Since the parliamentary elections in 2015, however, it has become more difficult for opposition members of the Sejm to obtain government documents and to receive them in good time. In some cases, the government has also failed to deliver the correct documents.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
8
Ministers and heads of the supreme organs of state administration (or their representatives) are obliged to take part in committee meetings whenever issues are discussed that fall within their domain. Groups comprising at least 15 members of parliament and parliamentary party groups have the right to ask for up-to-date information from members of the government. The Sejm then issues opinions, desiderata and suggestions on these reports. The comments are not legally binding, but in a worst case scenario may lead to a vote of no confidence against a minister, and even to his or her dismissal. In the period under review, the parliamentary opposition undertook three attempts to vote the prime minister or individual ministers out of office. All three attempts failed because of the government’s absolute majority. The PiS government has taken the summoning of ministers less seriously than its predecessor.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
7
Parliamentary committees have the right to invite experts to give statements on hearings on particular issues or to take part in normal committee proceedings. However, if bills are introduced by individual members of parliament (as has often been the case under the PiS government), the summoning of experts must be supported by a majority of members of parliament. The PiS majority in the Sejm has used this procedural rule to limit the invitation of experts close to the parliamentary opposition. Given the maneuvering of the PiS in the Sejm, some experts have refrained from participating in what they consider political manipulation.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
8
The number of Sejm committees exceeds the number of ministries. However, some committees, such as the Deputies’ Ethics Committee, deal exclusively with internal parliamentary issues. Most ministries, including the more important ones, have only a single oversight committee, a so-called branch committee. The distribution of subject areas among committees does not infringe upon parliament’s ability to monitor ministries.

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
7
Poland’s Supreme Audit Office (Naczelna Izba Kontroli, NIK) is an efficient and effective institution whose independence is respected. It is accountable exclusively to the Sejm. The NIK chairperson is elected by the Sejm for six years, ensuring that his or her term does not coincide with the term of the Sejm. The Senate has to approve the Sejm’s decision. The Supreme Audit Office has wide-ranging competencies and is entitled to audit all state institutions, government bodies and local-government administrative units, as well as corporate bodies and non-governmental organizations that pursue public contracts or receive government grants or guarantees. The NIK can initiate monitoring proceedings itself or do so at the request of the Sejm, its bodies or its representatives (e.g., the speaker of the Sejm, the national president or the prime minister). The office is also responsible for auditing the state budget. For the first time ever, in September 2016, the Sejm did not approve the annual report of the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) – 226 members of parliament voted to reject the report, while 193 voted in favor of it and 10 abstained. This was a clear signal that the PiS government wants to get rid of NIK governor Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, who had been appointed under the previous government. Between November 2016 and April 2017, 13 members of the NIK council’s terms in office expired. However, the Sejm speaker was very slow to appoint the suggested new members, which has hindered the NIK’s ability to check the state budget and has been widely perceived as an attempt to obstruct the proper working of NIK.

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
10
The Polish ombuds office, the Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights, is an independent state organ and is accountable exclusively to the Sejm. It has substantial investigative powers, including the right to view relevant files or to contact the prosecutor general and to send every law to the Constitutional Court. Because of its strong engagement for citizens’ rights ever since its creation in 1987, the ombuds office has traditionally been accorded a good reputation. However, the effectiveness of the ombuds office has suffered, as the institution has been assigned new tasks in the field of anti-discrimination policy, but lacks sufficient new funds to perform the tasks properly. The current Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a lawyer appointed in September 2015, has become a very active defender of civil and political rights. He called the Constitutional Court on the Anti-Terror Law and on the new laws on high-ranking civil servants, the Constitutional Court and the media. He is also fighting for the rights of his own office, since the Sejm passed a law on 18 March 2016 that makes it easier to remove the person holding the office of the commissioner. He is still in office, but has had a hard time. In 2017, Bodnar got into trouble with misleading statement in which he declared that Poles also contributed to the Holocaust. He subsequently revoked his statement. He intervened in the controversial in the ancient forest logging case, and protested in a court case against the environmental minister and against preventing NGOs challenging the environment minister’s decision in court.

Media

#38

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
Government decisions are widely covered by the country’s main TV and radio stations. Due to the media law, the public TVP is often dubbed TV-PiS. Jacek Kurski, party ideologist, was appointed as TV director and hired several party loyal journalists as anchors for the news shows and other relevant positions. In the private media, despite a tendency toward infotainment, the quality of reporting, especially of the two major TV companies, POLSAT and TVN, has increased. Rzeczpospolita, the second-largest daily paper in Poland, has benefited from a change in ownership and editorial staff, and has become less politically partisan. Still, there are few print outlets and TV and radio stations that resist political pressure, and the media is divided into pro or contra government. Public trust in the objectivity of the media was always been quite low, but now it is at a very low position. The main TV news show Wiadomosci in TVP has lost 17% of its viewers.

Citations:
Markowski, R., M. Kotnarowski (2016): Rewolucja mniejszości, in: Polityka, No. 6.

Parties and Interest Associations

#25

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
5
For the last decade, political parties have functioned under legislation that strictly defines the role of a political party and how parties are financed. Since most funding is public, the government mandates that parties themselves are governed by democratic principles. However, the reality is mixed, with some parties meeting democratic standards while others fall short. The conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), led by Jarosław Kaczyński since 2003, and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) have been characterized by a hierarchical mode of organization. By contrast, the Civic Platform (PO) has often experienced intra-party controversies. Since January 2016 and the party’s reorganization following its defeat in the parliamentary elections of 2015, Grzegorz Schetyna, former foreign minister in the Kopacz government, has led the party. In order to stimulate internal discussions and to increase a network also outside party membership, PO launched so-called citizens’ clubs that convene all over Poland. The other strong opposition party, Nowoczesna, does have democratic internal structures but is more fixed around its leader, Ryszard Petru.

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
6
Poland has a relatively developed universe of interest associations. Business associations and trade unions have become increasingly professional over time. The trade unions, especially NSZZ Solidarność, have quite friendly relations with the PiS government. For example, the trade unions supported the PiS government’s pension reform, protesting against the European Union and its critique of the pension reform in Brussels. Though OPZZ opposed some legal initiatives of the government, most notably the education reform. Leading business associations such as the Konfederacja Lewiatan and the Business Center Club (BCC) have the expertise and resources to carry out research and formulate elaborate reform proposals. Konfederacja Lewiatan monitors many draft bills, and its spokespeople maintain a strong media presence. There are also a number of smaller associations that organize internationally known events such as the European Forum for New Ideas (EFNI), which annually invites leading public intellectuals, academics and politicians, both Polish and European, to the EFNI conference in Sopot.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
6
Poland has a large number of interest associations beyond business associations and trade unions. However, compared to other countries, there are comparatively few environmental groups. Most non-governmental organizations are relatively small, and there are only a few interest associations that focus on, and are capable of, developing full-blown policy proposals. The Catholic Church, still the most influential interest group in Poland, pursues relatively narrow interests and is largely preoccupied with stabilizing its influence within an increasingly secular society. It currently has good access to the new government, but also asked for more national solidarity, peaceful cooperation and a friendlier approach toward refugees. A new social movement that managed to unite many Poles opposed to government efforts to dismantle democracy and judicial independence is the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (Komitet Obrony Democracji, KOD) which has organized public protests and large demonstrations in several Polish cities since December 2015. New organizations have come into existence since 2016 and especially young people are increasingly attending demonstrations.
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