Poland’s pres­i­dent pledges to veto leg­is­la­tion that threat­ens in­de­pen­dence of ju­di­ciary

The Guardian Weekly - - International News -

Poland’s pres­i­dent says he will veto two bills that are widely seen as at­tacks on the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary and are part of a planned le­gal over­haul by the rul­ing party that has sparked na­tion­wide protests.

In an­nounc­ing his de­ci­sion on Mon­day, An­drzej Duda broke openly for the first time with Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice party. Duda is closely aligned with the party and has sup­ported its agenda since tak­ing of­fice in 2015.

The Pol­ish cur­rency, the zloty, im­me­di­ately rose against the euro, as in­vestors saw the de­ci­sion as low­er­ing the po­lit­i­cal risk in Poland. Duda said he would veto two of three bills re­cently passed by law­mak­ers. One would have put the supreme court un­der the po­lit­i­cal con­trol of the rul­ing party – giv­ing the jus­tice min­is­ter, who is also pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral, power to ap­point judges.

Af­ter days of mass street protests, Duda said: “I have de­cided that I will send back to Sejm [the lower house of par­lia­ment], which means I will veto the bill on the supreme court, as well as the one about the Na­tional Coun­cil of the Ju­di­ciary.” He added that a pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral should not have such pow­ers. Duda’s step won the praise of mem­bers of the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion who had been urg­ing him to veto the bills, seen by many Poles and the EU as at­tacks on the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers in the young democ­racy.

Kamila Ga­siuk-Pi­how­icz, a lead­ing mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion party Mod­ern, called it a step in the right di­rec­tion and an “act of courage”. She said Duda’s de­ci­sion also shows the power of civic protests.

Katarzyna Lub­nauer, head of the par­lia­men­tary cau­cus of the op­po­si­tion party Nowoczesna, said: “What we had was not a re­form, but ap­pro­pri­a­tion of the courts. I con­grat­u­late all Poles – this is a great suc­cess.”

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