Op­po­si­tion keeps block­ing par­lia­ment in stand­off

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in War­saw, Poland

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

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