Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Politics and Government: Political Science

First Advisor

Ali Riaz


Poland made impressive gains during its democratization phrase between 1989 and 2015. Its economy became significantly more open; formal institutions underwent dramatic changes in checks and balances. Yet the task of sustaining the impressive performance of democratic institutions has become increasingly difficult after the victory of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) party during the 2015 elections. A right-wing populist PiS party’s rise to power had clear political mainsprings. A number of changes and amendments to the Constitutional Tribunal Act have been introduced that threaten the Tribunal independence and put constraints on the independence of the media, civil service, police, and prosecution. Along with many academic scholars, politicians, NGOs, activists for democracy, including those in the European Commission, condemned the Law and Justice Party’s move, calling it an attempt to dismantle institutional checks on the government and erode civil and political rights.From Poland’s democratic regression, we can learn that declines in democracy scores are not always the result of an institution’s instability or mismanaged government. When civil society disbelief for the government officials is accompanied by other structural features of vulnerability, a high risk of democratic backsliding arises, as exemplified in this thesis. The underlying exposure to Poland’s backsliding depends on a host of factors, including weak civil society, low public trust in democratic institutions, a history of unrest, high political polarization, and, primarily, discourses of political parties. Rising popular frustration with the political status quo in Poland led to the rise of the right-wing Populist Party, the PiS, and reflected negatively in the overall score of democracy. This thesis aimed to determine to what extent the rise and victory of the right-wing Populist Party, the PiS, has impacted democratic backsliding in the country. By studying the rise of populism in relation to democratic backsliding in Poland, this thesis aims to offer an alternative framework to the social requisites literature for understanding how elected officials can reverse democratization.


Imported from Yusupova_ilstu_0092N_11849.pdf


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