Professor Jurij Toplak at the Yale University roundtable


On October 16, the Yale Law School organized a roundtable about democracy in Eastern Europe. Sarah Genty, a Yale J.S.D. candidate, moderated the virtual event titled "Autocratic Legalism in Europe". Kim Lane Scheppele, professor at Princeton University, presented her research on deteriorating democracy in Hungary and Poland. Other presenters included the Ombudsman of Poland Dr. Adam Bodnar, and Paul Kahn, professor of constitutional law at Yale.

Professor Scheppele singled out authoritarian rule and the low level of democracy in Hungary and Poland. Jurij Toplak, professor at Alma Mater Europaea, asked, "When you talk about an authoritarian rule, you often mention Poland. Is there some unemotional measure by which we can measure the level of democracy, or autocracy, and by which Poland would actually rank low?" 

By any measure known, Poland does not rank low. Under the Freedom House Democracy ranking, Poland ranks better than, for example, EU member states Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria. Out of 29 countries ranked, Poland ranks as the 6th highest. Which is an objective or clear criteria, under which we can compare democracy in these countries, and Poland would be ranked lower than Romania or Bulgaria, Toplak wondered.

Dr. Bodnar, the Polish Human Rights Commissioner, focused on the judiciary reforms in Poland. His term ended in September, but since the parliament has not chosen his successor, he remains in his position until the parliament elects a new ombudsman. International observers widely respected Bodnar for its defense of human rights.

The photo: The Yale "Autocratic Legalism in Europe" Roundtable, 16 October 2020. Sarah Ganty (Yale), Kim Scheppele (Princeton), Jurij Toplak (Alma Mater), Franziska Bantlin (Yale), Marcin Mrowicki (Poland's Ombudsman Office), Anne Horn.