Coercive Clientelism Is on the Rise in Kaczyński’s Poland

Authoritarian Leaders Instrumentalising Informal Power

2 March 2021

Edit Zgut-Przybylska

Visegrad Insight Fellow

What do clientelism, the abuse of state resources and media market manipulation have in common? These informal processes have been invalidating the accomplishments of democracy in Central Europe. The Polish government has also used these mechanisms to skew the playing field during COVID-19 further.

While the COVID-19  shock was unprecedented both in terms of the scale and speed of its effects, Poland could avoid a serious economic recession.  And yet, domestic politics has never been so tense since the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party started its illiberal remodelling in 2015.

Jarosław Kaczyński, the country’s informal leader, has been exposed to a longstanding structural crisis within his coalition. Since he formally joined the government to control the radical wing led by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro,  he also divulged into a conflict with Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin.

In recent months, the abortion ruling has triggered a renewed standoff and put unprecedented pressure on the United Right governing coalition. As a result, the popularity of PiS has dropped heavily.

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Edit Zgut-Przybylska

Visegrad Insight Fellow

Visegrad Insight Fellow and re:constitution fellow. Political scientist and sociologist, a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Vice-president of Amnesty International Hungary and a guest lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute of the State Department of the United States. Focusing on informal power and populism in the context of Hungarian and Polish democratic backsliding.

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