WARSAW Tens of thousands marched via Warsaw on Saturday to protest against what they named the “democratorship” of the month-old conservative government, as Poland remained locked in a constitutional crisis.
Waving Polish and European Union flags, the protesters chanted: “We want the constitution, not a revolution,” demanding that the government respect the rule of law.
The constitutional clash began when the eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party, which scored a landmark election win in October, appointed 5 out of 15 judges to the highest judicial physique, in a move the opposition described as illegal.
PiS denies the charge. It mentioned judges in the constitutional court want to be replaced to make sure the balance of power in the body, and that it was the previous government that broke the law when they made the original appointments.
“These appointments were made based on a faulty law,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said. “We are only fixing the law.”
Gaining control of the court is essential for the party. It could decide regardless of whether PiS is in a position to implement its flagship policy plans, such as overhauling the retirement program and curbing foreign ownership of banks, moves the court could block.
“The current constitutional court is a stronghold of everything that’s incorrect with Poland,” PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told private broadcaster Republika. “All of our moves can be undermined (by it) in an arbitrary way.”
Critics say the government is emulating Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban in trying to impose its political agenda by pushing the boundaries of democracy.
“DEMOCRACY IN DANGER”
An opinion poll conducted for public tv has showed that just more than half of Poles think democracy is under threat. The Saturday march was attended by non-partisan organizations and opposition parties.
“Nowadays, it is an assault on the constitutional court, tomorrow, it could be an assault on our freedom,” stated Ryszard Petru, a former Planet Bank economist who now leads the pro-marketplace Contemporary party, Poland’s fourth parliamentary force.
A Warsaw city official stated up to 50,000 folks took element. The protesters included economist Leszek Balcerowicz, who created Poland’s shock therapy transition from communism.
“This is Warsaw, not Budapest!,” chanted the protesters. Smaller sized demonstrations took spot in other cities.
Addressing criticism over its constitutional court agenda, PiS says it was the former government of the center-appropriate Civic Platform (PO) that broke the law.
PO passed a bill this year allowing the previous parliament to appoint five judges alternatively of the three it had been scheduled to elect in the 15-seat tribunal. But President Andrzej Duda, a close ally of PiS, failed to swear them in, opening the way for PiS to challenge their candidacies.
PiS scrapped the nominations, and its parliamentary majority elected 5 new judges, who had been sworn in by Duda.
A lengthy fight could hurt Poland’s image as a model of post-communist transition.
Asked why she traveled more than 100 km (60 miles) to join the protest, retiree Grazyna Huzerowska mentioned: “Simply because I keep in mind the old instances.”
“In my household there were individuals, like my husband, who had been in prison for fighting against communism. I see it’s beginning all over … I think the Polish democracy is genuinely in danger.”
(Additional reporting by Kacper Pempel and Jan Pytalski editing by Andrew Roche)