Regime Change and Public Protest in Poland: Comparing Past and Present

  • Johanna Fleger Maastricht University


Poland is currently facing a political regime change that erodes the country’s democratic structures and undermines its judicial system. Resembling the Polish dissident movements that accompanied the transition from a socialist-led to a democratic state in the late 1980s, protest movements are recently emerging that aim to counter the illiberal tendencies of Poland’s contemporary government. Civil society groups seem to accompany different types of regime change, either supporting the establishment of a democracy or fighting its disruption, making them a valuable indicator for the direction of political change. This chapter examines the relation between public protest and regime change based on a comparative case study of Poland. The findings indicate that the form of public protest gives insight into the type of political agitation. Civil society guiding a regime transition towards democracy acts from outside a country’s political structures and targets the inside. A regime change that distances a country from a democratic set-up is marked by public protests that operate from within the state’s structures, using the persistent democratic framework. Comparing the post-communist and today’s stage of political upheaval in Poland thus reveals general patterns on the interaction between the public and the political sphere during a regime transformation process. 


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