“Apart from COVID-19, Poland is struggling with a constitutional crisis involving the Presidential election at the moment,” says Aleksander Stawicki, Senior Partner at WKB Wiercinski, Kwiecinski, Baehr. “Special legislation changed the voting system during the pandemic, in particular the organization of the election process and the way ballots are collected. This issue sparked a lot of controversy."
"Another thing is that the elections were scheduled for May 8, right in the middle of the pandemic," Stawicki says. "They never took place, however, and now discussions are proceeding about how and when to organize them. We have no idea what’s going to happen, although most probably we will go and vote on the last week of June.”
Stawicki reports that there is an “ongoing battle for the Polish judicial system as well.” According to him, “the Supreme Court president’s term of office expired and the process of appointing her successor was attracting a lot of attention.” This process is seen as having significant implications for the country’s judicial independence, as the Supreme Court plays the vital role in the Polish system.
As elsewhere, the focus of Poland’s parliament has been on measures designed to combat the pandemic. “The Polish Government has implemented a number of so-called 'Anti-Pandemic Shields” he says, "containing a broad array of measures. These included, for example, suspensions of the majority of judicial and administrative proceedings, various state aid instruments to businesses, new rules for employment, and so on.”
But Stawicki says it’s not completely clear that the government’s actions were sufficient. “It’s always easy to just adopt new things,” he says. “The question is whether and how they work. There is quite a lot of criticism coming from the business and there are questions about whether the government has done enough to save the economy. That is why we have recently witnessed protest in the streets of Warsaw.” In addition, he says, much of the legislation is unnecessarily complicated. “Our firm and a number of our largest competitors are now a part of a pro bono project that helps small businesses navigate through the legislation and tough bureaucratic procedures they have to face,” he says. “On their own, they have difficulty understanding and following any it. The question remains: will they survive?”
In the meantime, he reports, although "some significant closings are happening, mostly on the real estate market," in general "investors are waiting to see how the situation develops in order to know how to organize their assets and carry on working.” As a result, he says, “law firms are still working, but there are signals that the volume is significantly lower than it used to be for a number of them. That means that there might be changes in the legal market.”
At the end of the day, Stawicki remains confident. “I have a lot of hope in the Polish people. After the Communist regime, we proved ourselves to be entrepreneurial and hard working. We are used to taking care of ourselves. A long history of non-helpful Governments made us stronger – we never wait for somebody to help us, but rather take action ourselves.” As a result, he suggests this crisis is an opportunity as much as anything else. “This is another situation in which we will have to deal with our problems, despite the fact that we have not much help from the state and despite the difficult political situation that came at the worst possible time." He sighs, admitting that "I’d much rather have one problem than face both at the same time." Still, he notes, "at the end of the day, Poland is a big economy with a high number of well educated, hardworking people. The internal demand is strong — when you go shopping, you see people spending and trying to get back to normal as soon as possible. I have faith in all of that. Historically speaking, we always win at the end even if there are very difficult periods on the way.”