Polish President Vetoes Controversial Court Reforms
Thousands took the streets. The protests appear to have worked.
After a week of protests across the country, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced he will veto legislation that critics say would have effectively brought Poland’s supreme court and National Judiciary Council under the control of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS).
“I have decided to send back to parliament – in which case to veto – the law on the supreme court, as well as the law on the National Council of the Judiciary,” Duda said in a televised statement.
The Polish president added that the laws would not bolster the “sense of justice in society” and needed to be amended.
The president’s move comes as a surprise, but signing the bill would have tested the patience of the European Union, weakened Polish currency, and threatened a constitutional crisis. Vetoing the law signifies the president’s first public split with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the PiS party.
Kaczynski maintained the laws were necessary for judicial reform, and, last Tuesday, blamed the parliamentary opposition for the 2010 plane crash that killed his twin brother, Lech Kaczynski, who was president at the time.
President Duda had previously proposed his own legislation, which would have required a three-fifths parliamentary majority, which PiS doesn’t have, to put judges on the National Council of the Judiciary. But PiS spokesperson Beata Mazurek said parliament wouldn’t consider Duda’s bill if he didn’t sign theirs first.
Some fear that Duda’s statements and amendments to the legislation will fail to address the issues most concerning to protesters. But his veto was greeted as a victory for those who took to the streets.
“Ever since Law and Justice started its crusade against democratic institutions in Poland, the youth were largely absent from the protests,” Mateo Mazzini, a Warsaw-based academic told Foreign Policy. “… Now they joined the protests en masse, largely as these demonstrations were in defence of values, not pro or against a given political option.”
Protesting in defence of independent courts became a fashionable thing,” said Mazzini, “but young Poles must and will not stop here.”
Photo credit: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images