The Guardian view on Poland’s hot political summer: changing weather | Editorial

The Law and Justice party’s authoritarian grip on the country’s politics has been weakened

At a glance, it has been business as usual this summer for Poland’s conservative-nationalist government. There has been a fierce row over attempts to introduce a disciplinary system to keep judges in line. A controversial new bill threatens to further compromise media independence, by banning non-European ownership of broadcasting companies. Both the European Union and the United States have railed at these latest anti-democratic manoeuvres, designed to strengthen the authoritarian grip of the Law and Justice party (PiS). But, despite all the international criticism, PiS remains ahead of its rivals in the polls.

So far, so familiar. But six years after PiS won power, turning Poland into a bastion of European illiberalism alongside Hungary, the party’s polarising playbook is not working the political magic it once did. This week Warsaw backed down on the judges dispute, which was in danger of becoming a tipping point in its vexed relations with the EU. Under pressure from Brussels, it has disbanded the supreme court chamber – packed with political appointees – to which court verdicts would have been answerable. Having gone to the brink, Poland blinked first.

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