The Polish election raises crucial questions about democracy in Poland and Europe
I think PiS often get mis-characterised in English language media.
Some of what they've tried to do has been necessary, just done badly - like the judicial reforms.
PiS aren't really a far right party at all, they're essentially a Catholic nationalist party who hover somewhere around the centre left on economics. The problem is that they have a mentality of trying to get as much personal gain as they can, and often in a very transparent and grabby manner.
PiS are certainly not undemocratic, and considering they are so beholden to German business and EU money their actual policies are nowhere near as illiberal as the media headlines seem. They have overseen a huge rise in non-European migration, their 500+ program hasn't really done anything for the birth rate and institutional opposition to imposed Western values has fallen away.
It's strange to see people linking them to Russia - whilst an "illiberal coalition" with Putin might seem logical from the outside, all areas of Polish politics and the Polish populace have a deep distrust of Russia and an overwhelmingly Atlantacist look at foreign policy. Mind you, I see the same pundits suggest Poland should occupy Lwow which is an equally inappropriate idea and one far from the mainstream of Polish thought.
Poland has long lacked much in the way of civil society, and I even used to cooperate with an NGO aimed at developing organisations and promoting civil society there. As with many things, it was bringing a left leaning Western viewpoint to a uniquely Polish situation so had little impact.
PO themselves were also manifestly corrupt and incompetent during their administration. Lots of financial scandals come to mind, like AmberGold.
It's also worth looking at any Polish issue through the lens of Poland A, B and C. The division between east and west is cultural, not linguistic or ethnic as in Ukraine. The richer western part of Poland is generally more liberal than the poorer eastern part. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poland_A_and_B
The apparent rise of the so-called populist ‘right’ in Europe may be because of the repeated failure of the main legacy parties to implement the policies that the people really want. The legacy political parties have evolved into a managerialist monolithic in the major countries of Europe and indeed in the US and Canada too.
The leaders of the main legacy political parties are the pseudo elites of Germany, France, Italy and Spain, and UK too, they are not addressing the real wants and needs of the people, in no way they are truly liberal, nor even neoliberal.
In Europe the failure to deliver on the basic needs of the people in defence and law and order, the open borders policies and the internal denigration of national interests have made the peoples weary of the deception that has been played upon them; all encourage by the anti-democratic EU that is the personification of the managerialist class. See especially the writings of Angelo Codevilla, for example at https://spectator.org/americas-ruling-class/ .