Polish president sees flaws in contentious law on top court

Zborowski

The law, among other things, provides for the dismissal of Supreme court judges, except those appointed by the President and gives the President the power to direct the activities of the courts.

Poland's Senate approved the measure early Saturday, capping days of debate and demonstrations.

The bill, sponsored by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), was passed by parliament's lower house earlier in the day after tumultuous debate, triggering one of the biggest protests since the PiS came to power in late 2015. Many are holding "3 X veto" signs to make Duda reject the bills on the Supreme Court and other judicial bodies that are waiting for his signature to become law. He has adhered to the ruling party line up to now.

The amendments, if approved, will empower parliament and the justice minister to appoint judges to the Supreme Court.

European Union leaders say the bill would kill judicial independence and threaten the rule of law in the EU's largest member in Central and Eastern Europe.

Tens of thousands of people have been holding peaceful but noisy protests across the nation this week.

Even before the Senate voted on the measure, Duda posted a tweet announcing that he'll meet with the president of the Supreme Court, Malgorzata Gersdorf, on Monday at 11 a.m.

Beata Szydlo said Thursday night that the legislation was a result of public criticism of the legal system's inefficiency and blamed the public outcry it has triggered on the "frustration" of the opposition. Poland faces serious global consequences for politicizing courts, though nobody in Brussels wants to "assault" the country, he said when asked if the European Union is likely to impose sanctions.




Her comments appear to refer to warnings from the European Union of sanctions against Poland, including a possibility of stripping Warsaw of its EU voting rights.

Once the legislation passes in the Senate, where PiS has a majority, the bill will go to President Duda, a PiS ally, for final approval.

Duda has so far not accepted an invitation for talks on the issue from European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

"Poland's president should be concerned about a situation that is, let's say, serious", Tusk said.

Opponents of the move argue that it will demolish judicial independence and separation of powers in the country, marking a major shift for a ruling government that has already been accused of pursuing an illiberal agenda. He said the Law and Justice party had no right to destroy that achievement.

Senator Aleksander Bobko, of the right-wing PiS party, said that ending the term of the first Supreme Court president was an obvious violation of the constitution.

But the opposition and judges groups in Poland as well as critics in Brussels say the legislation is a new step by the Polish government towards authoritarianism. The poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, amid large street protests against the party's plan for the judiciary.

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