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Opposition MPs reject president's call for constitutional changes

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 26.09.2017 08:00
Opposition politicians have rejected the president's suggestion to change the constitution in order to accommodate his proposed judicial reforms, which were consulted by parliamentary caucuses on Monday.
Andrzej Duda. Photo:  PAP/Paweł Supernak.Andrzej Duda. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak.

President Andrzej Duda consulted his plans after vetoing two government-backed judicial reform bills in July – one on the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a powerful judges' ethics council, the other on the Supreme Court – in a landmark move.

Ahead of the veto, and again on Monday, Duda suggested that KRS judges be selected by a three-fifths majority in parliament.

On Monday Duda suggested that if a three-fifths consensus was not reached within two months, then the president would select KRS members, but this would require changes to the constitution.

Opposition parties Civic Platform (PO) and Nowoczesna (Modern) said they would not back constitutional changes needed to make Duda's proposed changes possible.

Nowoczesna leader Ryszard Petru said constitutional changes were “unnecessary” and that “there is no need to politicise the judiciary”.

Without their backing, constitutional reforms would not go through, and Duda instead suggested that, in the case of a stalemate, candidates would be selected by a vote in parliament, whereby one MP had one vote, and the candidates with the most votes would join the council.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said Duda's proposal "opened the road for debate" but suggested that there was an easier way than changing the constitution.

An official from the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which backed Duda in presidential elections in 2015, said the suggestions were “interesting” and would be considered in parliament.

The president on Monday also suggested introducing a disciplinary chamber for judges in the Supreme Court and phasing out current judges over 65 years of age.

Double veto

Duda promised judicial reform bills and their “broad” consultation amid a political storm in July, after he vetoed two of three controversial government-backed bills that would have given officials significant powers in appointing and dismissing court judges.

The changes planned by Poland’s ruling conservatives caused protests across Poland, while the European Commission said it was close to taking action against Warsaw for violating EU laws, warning that the planned overhaul of the country's judicial system threatened the independence of courts.

Calling for calm, in a special televised address, Duda said in July he would veto bills to reform the Supreme Court and the powerful judges' ethics council.

It was a landmark decision, with Duda having hitherto signed into law most bills passed by the PiS-dominated parliament.

Duda said at the time that “wise” changes to the judiciary were needed, but added that he was against strengthening the influence of the Attorney General over the Supreme Court.

PiS has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens. (vb/pk)

Source: PAP, IAR

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