Outrage over plans by Poland’s governing party to put the judicial system under its political control sparked another day of nationwide protests Saturday, with some people gathering outside the home of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and accusing him of being a dictator.
Polish democracy icon and former President Lech Walesa addressed a protest in Gdansk, urging young Poles to fight to preserve the separation of powers that his Solidarity movement helped to achieve more than a quarter century ago when Poland threw off communist rule.
Poland’s Senate approved the measure early Saturday, capping days of debate and demonstrations. The lower house of Parliament gave its approval earlier this week.
“Mass protests in Poland in recent days failed to change the minds of the ruling Law and Justice Party,” NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin. “Its leaders say the measure — which among other things, ousts the current Supreme Court judges — is aimed at reforming the judicial system and to ensure any vestiges of communism are purged.”
The new law would allow Duda to choose who gets to stay on the court and to name new judges to replace anyone he wants to remove.
The EU is on the brink of taking the nuclear option of stripping Poland of its voting rights in Brussels in response to plans by its rightwing government to “abolish” the independence of the country’s judiciary.
Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European commission, accused Warsaw of seeking to put judges under full political control as he warned that the EU was “very close” to triggering article 7, a never-before-used sanction in the treaties that allows a member state’s voting rights in the council of ministers to be suspended.