WARSAW, POLAND —
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton should apologize to the Poles for having said they think “democracy is too much trouble'' and want to have an “authoritarian dictatorship,'' Poland's prime minister said Wednesday.
Beata Szydlo called Clinton's words “unjustified and simply unfair.''
“With all due respect, and without using coarse words, [Clinton] exaggerated and should apologize to us,'' she told Polish state radio Wednesday.
Speaking in New Jersey in support of wife Hillary's U.S. presidential campaign, Clinton said Hungary and Poland “would not be free'' if not for the United States, but “have now decided this democracy is too much trouble.''
“They want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin-like leadership. Just give me an authoritarian dictatorship and keep the foreigners out,'' he said.
“Sound familiar?'' Clinton asked, in apparent reference to campaign statements by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
A comparison to Putin is especially shocking in Poland, which is very distrustful and critical of his policies.
Clinton was also referring to Warsaw and Budapest protesting European Union plans to redistribute some of the tens of thousands of refugees flooding into Europe and refusing to take in some of them.
Ruling party response
The head of Poland's conservative ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said Clinton is misinformed.
“If someone says there is no democracy in Poland today, that means he should have a medical test,'' he said.
Some Western politicians say Poland's conservative Law and Justice party, which won the presidential and the parliamentary elections last year, does threaten some democratic principles and the rule of law. It has been criticized for the continuing paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal, its tighter grip on state-owned media and allowing greater surveillance powers for police, issues that have led to massive street protests.
Frank Spula, the head of an organization in Chicago representing some 10 million Americans of Polish origin, told Polish state radio that Clinton's words “must sicken anybody who knows the history of Poland and of the Poles.''
On Tuesday, Hungary also protested Bill Clinton's words.