Comment: Poland falls in ‘ranking of democracies’

The messenger and the message always come together in one package. The Bertelsmann foundation is committed to a certain vision of liberal democracies by which countries are being judged. And the choice of an academic fiercely critical of the Polish authorities as the Polish expert on the team assessing Poland must also be recognised as affecting the outcome.

Poland falls in ‘ranking of democracies’

A ranking of OECD and EU democracies prepared by experts hired by the Bertelsmann foundation shows Poland falling by 29 places and coming 37th out...

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It is fascinating that the governments that are criticised in this report, including the one in Poland, are often the ones which enjoy the highest levels of trust and support, as the report notes. Maybe rather than try to accuse these countries of back-sliding on liberal democracy more attention should have been paid by the researchers as to the reasons for that rise in support?

Perhaps these governments are actually dealing with some issues and problems their populations believe are important?

It is impossible not to question some of the findings on Poland contained in the report on which the rankings are based. The public media in Poland have more often than not been dominated by the governing party.

At least currently there is a genuine plurality of views present in all printed and electronic media as commercial outlets tend to be critical of the governing party. Under the previous government both the public as well as the commercial media were sympathetic to the government and hostile to its main opposition.

Nor is there any evidence of government “control” over Poland’s NGOs. The establishment of an institution for funding NGOs does not limit the right of NGOs to seek funding from other public bodies or the private sector. And every government had NGOs it liked and funded more than others. Nothing new under the sun here.

Finally we have judicial independence and the rule of law. Did the authors of the report consider the litany of complaints about treatment in the courts coming from ordinary citizens and business? Did they report on nepotism, cronyism and outright corruption that has for years dogged the system?

Nevertheless, this report will not be a development that can be welcomed by the present government. Refuting this report is one thing. Taking measures to better explain the actual reality in Poland today is an even greater priority.

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