A new threat to Poland’s constitution seems to have turned upside down definitely the three power division. Is that the final step of turning the country away from democracy?
On July 2017 hundreds of Poles gathered in many cities to protest against the latest government’s measure, which would give the ruling party in government control over judges. Thousands of people marched on the streets and filled them with big words and shouts of irritation in what was a huge proof of a compromised polish society who stands and fights for their rights.
At that moment, Polish democracy won partially, according the sociologist Slawomir Sierakowski in an article for The New York Times, when President Andrzej Duda, linked with the party in government, vetoed two controversial bills that would have given the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) direct power over Poland’s courts. “It was a partial winning because President Duda did sign a bill giving the Justice Ministry control over local courts and because Mr. Duda has said he would introduce his own versions of the legislation soon”, said Sierakowski.
After that ‘Black July‘ and with the momentary veto from Mr. Duda, Poland could breath again some hope for democracy. So, what has happened now?
It is more than a fact that since taking power in 2015, the PiS has increasingly established control over Poland’s lesser courts. Last Monday at midnight, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) government lowered the mandatory retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65, thereby forcing nearly 40 percent of them to retire. According to the Polish law, judges can prolong six more years their term by informing the President about it. Nevertheless, the new measure introduces the right to Mr.Duda to deny them without providing a reason. Twenty-seven of the court’s 72 judges are affected by the measure in a move critics say is an attempt to pack the courts with judges more amenable to the party’s right-wing ideologies.
Polish took the streets last Monday to fight for independent courts and tribunals, not nominated by the party in government. Different organizations, such as NGOs for human rights, women’s rights and LGBT were also there to support. In the main square of Wrocław, south-west Poland, around two hundred people gathered to speak up.
“Akademicki strajk okupacyjny”; “Kapturowe sądy ziobry nie”; “Europejskie sądy to nasze sądy”; “Demolka Wymiaru Sprawiedliwości”; Łamanie Konstrukcji”; “Niszcą Prawo”; “Niszcą Szkoły”; “Psują Polskę”; “Pis-Matoły”; “Ja Zostaję”; (…)
Some of the claims shouted and written on big posters could be heard and seen as these ones.
As Khatya Choor for France 24 says, “by forcibly reconfiguring the makeup of the Supreme Court it now extends its influence to the country’s top appeals court and the tribunal that authorizes election results”.
Threat to the rule of law in Poland
This reform has collided with Brussels and the European Commission has just launched a press released in which stands by Polish law and give the opinion that these measures undermine the principle of judicial independence, “including the irremovability of judges”. This infringement procedure aims to protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court and establish one month period for the Polish government to reply to the Commission’s Letter of Formal Notice.
The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had been invited to a meeting on Wednesday in the European Parliament in order to talk about Europe’s future. The meeting, but, turned into a speech of Morawiecki about why Poland has modified its judiciary system while the majority of the Eurodeputys were criticizing his arguments, saying Poland is risking the judicial independence, the rule of law and democracy in the country.
I invite you to see the project “The Urge of the Polish“. Pictures of July 2017, taken during the first protests regarding the judiciary system in Poland.