Pol­ish law­mak­ers in hol­i­day protest

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pol­ish law­maker Michal Stasin­ski ar­rived at par­lia­ment pulling a suit­case and car­ry­ing a bag filled with his mother’s home­made cab­bage-and-mush­room stuffed dumplings. While most law­mak­ers were home for Christ­mas, Stasin­ski on Fri­day was join­ing a group of op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers hun­ker­ing down in the dimly lit and chilly build­ing to protest what they con­sider back­slid­ing on democ­racy by a pop­ulist govern­ment whose anti-estab­lish­ment and na­tion­al­is­tic views echo those of US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

The protest­ing law­mak­ers have vowed to stay in the main as­sem­bly where laws are voted on, tak­ing turns in shifts, un­til par­lia­ment re­turns on Jan 11. In its 13 months in power, the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice party has moved to weaken the Con­sti­tu­tional Tri­bunal - the coun­try’s high­est leg­isla­tive court - tried to limit cer­tain press free­doms, sup­ported crim­i­nal­iz­ing abor­tion and ap­proved some restric­tions on public gath­er­ings. Op­po­nents fear that the con­sti­tu­tion and free elec­tions might be next. “What they are do­ing is build­ing a kind of vel­vet dic­ta­tor­ship, step by step,” Stasin­ski, a mem­ber of Mod­ern, a pro-busi­ness party in­volved in the protest, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “I can­not agree to what they are do­ing and this is why I have de­cided to spend Christ­mas here.”

The way the rul­ing party is ce­ment­ing power has un­leashed off-and-on street protests in War­saw and other cities. How­ever, the party’s sup­port re­mains strong in small towns, boosted by cash bonuses paid monthly to fam­i­lies with at least two chil­dren and poorer fam­i­lies that have only one child. The party also low­ered the re­tire­ment age to 60 for women and 65 for men, a pop­u­lar change but one econ­o­mists say the ag­ing so­ci­ety can’t af­ford.

Stasin­ski’s fam­ily in By­d­goszcz were sorry he wouldn’t be home for Christ­mas, but even his ail­ing 86-year-old fa­ther sup­ports his de­ci­sion to protest. The 48-year-old law­maker planned to get through the hol­i­day on his mother’s pierogi, along with food from his fel­low law­mak­ers and sup­port­ers, and some warm cloth­ing. Anti-govern­ment ac­tivists were plan­ning to or­ga­nize a meal out­side the par­lia­ment for the protest­ing law­mak­ers on Christ­mas Eve, the most im­por­tant mo­ment in three days of Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions in Poland. Poland has been in a state of ten­sion since Law and Jus­tice swept to power, win­ning first the pres­i­dency and then a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment - the most power any party has had in the demo­cratic era. Party lead­ers ar­gue they have a man­date to re­build Poland in line with their tra­di­tional, Catholic and pa­tri­otic world­view. — AP

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