Opposition keeps blocking parliament in standoff
Polish opposition leaders said on Saturday they would maintain their blockade of parliament’s main hall and called for popular protests against a government that has accused it of trying to seize power.
Poland’s biggest political standoff in years began on Friday when opposition lawmakers objected to plans by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to curb media access to parliament, and blocked the plenary hall podium ahead of a budget vote.
About two dozen members of the Civic Platform (PO) party have taken turns to occupy the podium and the party’s leader said they would remain there for the next few days.
PiS lawmakers moved voting to another area without media access, prompting accusations they had passed the 2017 budget illegally, breaching the constitution.
Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said the protest was just whining by parties that lost an elec- tion in 2015 after eight years in government.
But striking a more conciliatory tone, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski moved to organize a meeting between the speaker of the upper house of parliament and the media late on Saturday night to discuss the new plan for journalists’ access.
Several thousand people protested in Warsaw and other cities after police broke up a blockade of the entrances to parliament in the early hours of Saturday.
Poland’s Western allies have expressed concerns over government plans to reform the constitutional court, saying it contravened democratic standards.
But despite criticism at home and abroad, the eurosceptic PiS enjoys steady support among many Poles eager to hear its message of higher welfare, more Catholic values in public life and less dependence on foreign capital.
“The situation ... has nothing in common with the real condition of our country,” Prime Minister Szydlo said in a televised address.
“On the contrary, it reflects a sense of helplessness and frustration on the part of those who lost power and don’t have nay ideas how to attract Poles to their views.”
Earlier on Saturday, European Union Council President Donald Tusk, a former head of the PO — Poland’s largest opposition party — urged the government to “respect and regard the people, constitutional principles and morals”.
“Those who undermine the European model of democracy (and) attack the constitution and good customs, expose all of us to strategic risks, said Tusk,
The situation ... has nothing in common with the real condition of our country.” Beata Szydlo, Polish prime minister