Protests in Poland explained: Why are thousands of people marching in the streets?

July 24, 2017
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Over 100 cities across the nation reacted to proposed reforms from the populist Law and Justice party (PiS), that would allow the government to retire Poland’s Supreme Court Judges.

Thousands of people, including politicians, celebrities and lawyers have poured into the streets to demand the bills are stopped in their tracks.

President Andrzej Duda who was initially expected to sign his party’s bills into effect, performed a u-turn today when he vetoed two of the three bills.

Mr Duda said: “This law would not strengthen the sense of justice.

“I have decided to send back to parliament – in which case to veto – the law on the supreme court, as well as the law on the National Council of the Judiciary.”

But despite the decision being welcomed by the protestors, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has made it clear she will push for the reforms regardless of the decision.

She said: “Reforming the courts is necessary – they do not work very well today.

“Despite widespread expectations of reforms, no one has done it so far. We will not back down from the path of fixing the country.

“We have a stable majority, we will not bow down to pressure, we will realise our programme. We will fix Poland.”

Why are the bills so controversial?

Many protestors consider the reforms to be an unashamed power-grab by PiS.

The proposed measures would allow the government to sack Supreme Court judges, while giving the Justice Minister the power to appoint new judiciaries.

The opposition fears this would politicise the justice system.

Lawyer Krzysztof Izdebski said: “A feeling of trust towards the courts is fundamental in the tripartite of power.

“It allows for balance and control over what the ruling do. 

“Take a row of balls on strings bouncing off of each other as an example. The moment one of them wants to hit harder, everything tangles up and stops working – it is the same with the government.”

The bills were first passed through the senate after a heated 16-hour debate to the rumble of protests in the streets.

What happens next?

The Polish parliament is now left with the option to ignore the President’s veto if it can secure a 3/5 majority of at least a half of all 460 MPs.

In order to pass the bill, PiS will need to secure a minimum of 276 votes. The party will need to seek support within the parliamentary ranks to back its 234 seats.

But a former head of the Constitutional Tribunal believes tthe aftershocks of the unrest, could lead to an early election for the government.

Speaking to Onet.pl, Jerzy Stępień said: “If Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro was a man of honour, he would immediately resign. His concept did not pass.

“In fact it was a concept of the whole government, and I will remind you that the Prime Minister herself, publicly assured that the bills will come into effect.”

He added: “The conflict will continue escalating. It is already so deep that maybe it will need to be solved with an early election.

“Because if PiS’ fundamental reforms have crumbled to dust, then this government has lost its ability to effectively function.”



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