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