Sunday

26th Jan 2020

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 20 years of archives. 14-day 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.

Croatia's EU presidency optimism beset by problems

Croatia wants to focus on economic development, connectivity, internal and external security and a globally more assertive Europe over its six-month presidency - but Brexit and the next budget negotiations may put pay to that.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan premier refuses to step down, despite ruling
  2. UK set to support new fossil fuel projects in Africa
  3. Leftist MEPs to visit jailed Catalan MEP
  4. Bulgaria may expel Russian diplomats over 'espionage'
  5. EU, China, others agree on WTO body to settle disputes
  6. EU Commission makes move against Poland on judges law
  7. Soros pledges $1bn for liberal universities
  8. Merkel: Germany unprepared for 2015 refugee crisis

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. AI must have human oversight, MEPs recommend
  2. Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal
  3. Why do EU arms end up in Libya despite UN ban?
  4. Brexit deal to be signed, as sides poised for tough talks
  5. Timmermans urges EU governments to tax carbon
  6. Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote
  7. China spy suspect had EU permission to work as lobbyist
  8. EU to unveil 5G 'toolbox' to tackle security threats

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us