Wednesday

23rd Oct 2019

Judicial dispute prompts rallies, counter-rallies in Poland

  • Warsaw: Kaczynski's new dawn (Photo: Giuseppe Milo)

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated over the weekend in Poland after its recently elected government installed five judges in the top court.

The competing rallies highlighted a deepening political division in the country, where half the population feels democracy is under threat, polls say.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

On Saturday (12 December), opposition forces joined up to denounce the decision, made by Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, to install five pro-PiS judges on the 15-member Constitutional Tribunal.

Figures vary, but according to Warsaw officials, 50,000 people took part in the demonstration, waving Polish and EU flags. Smaller rallies also took place in other cities, such as Poznan.

Protestors chanted “this is Warsaw, not Budapest!”, by reference to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who is, like Kaczynski, a eurosceptic populist.

"Today, it's an assault on the Constitutional Court. Tomorrow, it could be an assault on our freedom,” said Ryszard Petru, a former World Bank economist, now leader of pro-market Modern party, the fourth largest in the Polish parliament.

The opposition says Kaczynski’s court move is illegal.

The tribunal can overturn legislation, and forms the last obstacle to PiS reforms, after the party won an outright majority in October. It plans to raise the retirement age, boost welfare, and curb foreign ownership of banks and media.

But Kaczynski says the former government, led by the centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party, broke the rules by trying to appoint five judges, instead of the usual three, moments before the election, which PO knew it would lose.

The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, a close ally of Kaczynski, declined to swear them in, paving the way for the PiS nominations.

“The current constitutional court is a stronghold of everything that's wrong with Poland,” Kaczynski told Republika, a private broadcaster, according to Reuters.

“All of our moves can be undermined [by it] in an arbitrary way,” he said.

Counter-rally

On Sunday, PiS supporters went out on the streets waving Polish flags and party banners, while chanting Kaczynski and Duda’s names.

The rally, which attracted tens of tousands of people, was, in part, designed to mark the anniversary of 1981, when the then Polish Communist authorities imposed martial law.

“We won the election, but we have no right to set laws and remodel Poland,” Kaczynski, a former anti-Communist activist, told the crowd, sarcastically.

EP to hold debate on Kaczynski's Poland

Centre-right, centre-left, and liberal MEPs want a debate, next week, on democratic backsliding in Poland. But Polish politicians say it's too soon.

Poland's ruling party shows true colours

Poland's newly elected ruling party is showing off its confrontational style by overturning appointments of top judges and stepping up the rhetoric against Russia.

Crucial summit: last EU-28 format?

The EU summit will be crucial for the future of the EU, but especially for the UK. The next EU summit will not be the same since the UK's withdrawal will have consequences for the power relations within the council.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs criticise Juncker over climate and tax policies
  2. Juncker defends commission record on Greek crisis
  3. Croatian MEP criticises EU parliament for trusting Šuica
  4. Brexit is waste of time and energy, says Juncker
  5. Abortion and same-sex marriage become legal in Northern Ireland
  6. Germany wants internationally controlled zone in Syria
  7. EU parliament refuses to debate Catalonia
  8. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. EU open to imminent Brexit extension, Tusk indicates
  2. EU centrists ally with far right on migrant rescues
  3. MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal
  4. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  5. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  6. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  7. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  8. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us