Ludwika Włodek is a sociologist and journalist. She is an assistant professor at the Centre for East European Studies at the University of Warsaw.

Lesson One for Rebuilding Democracy: Listen to the People

Poland’s new government took office amid the widespread goodwill of those supporting it. But it risks losing office after a single term if it doesn’t act on its promises.

Szymon Hołownia, the new speaker of Poland’s Sejm, didn’t waste much time in expressing his view of how the lower house of parliament should work after elections that changed the country’s political landscape. “The Sejm should serve first and foremost those Poles who do not visit it every day,” he proclaimed. “I hope that in two years, you will see the Sejm as a model of decent debate and discussion and not as a negation of it.”

When Hołownia speaks, the others listen, and it’s not only because of his important parliamentary role. His party, The Third Way did well in the October elections on a campaign focused on ending the government duopoly between the conservative and nationalist Law and Justice Party PiS and the liberal Civic Platform PO. It did so by appealing to Poles more conservative than the PO but unhappy with what they considered the xenophobic and undemocratic positions of PiS. And it made its position clear from the outset: a post-election alliance with the PO and the New Left.

„The focus of the new government is not on history but on rebuilding democracy in Poland.“

Ludwika Włodek

Hołownia, a progressive Catholic, former journalist, and well-known TV personality, has quickly embraced his new role. He is tough on politicians who interrupt speeches, use offensive language, or simply ignore time limits. It’s a “new broom sweeps clean” approach that has made him the most popular politician in Poland, according to a poll conducted at the beginning of the year. It was largely thanks to him that young voters who turned out in such large numbers on Oct. 15 — 70 per cent of them — started watching broadcasts of the Sejm’s proceedings. Reflecting its popularity, they’re calling it Sejmflix. The Sejm’s YouTube channel tripled its subscribers in just three weeks after the first session. Today, it has 750,000 followers.

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