Pol­ish ten­sions, protests rise

Euro­pean Coun­cil’s pres­i­dent urges con­sti­tu­tional re­spect.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Monika Scislowska

war­saw, poland» Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk on Satur­day urged Poland’s rul­ing party to re­spect the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion, peo­ple and demo­cratic prac­tices as two days of anti-gov­ern­ment protests spread from War­saw to two other ci­ties.

Pro­test­ers ral­lied out­side the pres­i­den­tial palace and the par­lia­ment build­ing in War­saw for a sec­ond day Satur­day over a gov­ern­ment plan to re­strict jour­nal­ists’ ac­cess to law­mak­ers in par­lia­ment.

The protests came amid ris­ing po­lit­i­cal ten­sions over the rul­ing con­ser­va­tive Law and Jus­tice party’s new poli­cies un­der chair­man Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski and fol­lowed a large spon­ta­neous demon­stra­tion Fri­day out­side par­lia­ment.

Tusk, Poland’s for­mer prime min­is­ter, in­voked the word “dic­ta­tor­ship” and re­minded his au­di­ence of protests in Poland un­der com­mu­nism that ended in blood­shed.

“I ap­peal to those who hold real power in our coun­try to re­spect the peo­ple, the prin­ci­ples and val­ues of the con­sti­tu­tion, the stand­ing pro­ce­dures and good prac­tices,” Tusk said in Wro­claw, south­west Poland, where he was at­tend­ing a cul­tural event.

He warned that who­ever was un­der­min­ing the “Euro­pean model of democ­racy” in Poland was “ex­pos­ing us all to strate­gic risks.”

A few hours later, Prime Min­is­ter Beata Szydlo said in a na­tion­wide tele­vised ad­dress that the op­po­si­tion was guided by a sense of “help­less­ness and frus­tra­tion” over having lost power and was hurt­ing Poland’s in­ter­est with its ac­tions.

“Noise, per­tur­ba­tion, desta­bi­liza­tion have, alas, be­come the tools of the op­po­si­tion par­ties,” Szydlo said, ap­peal­ing for di­a­logue, re­spon­si­bil­ity and calm.

The crowd of a few thou­sand in War­saw chanted “Free­dom! Equal­ity! Democ­racy!” and waved Pol­ish and Euro­pean Union flags, a re­flec­tion of the proEuro­pean views of many liberal, ur­ban Poles who op­pose the rul­ing party.

“This con­flict is en­ter­ing a new, more ag­gres­sive phase,” said Szy­mon Ro­gin­ski, a pho­tog­ra­pher who joined the protest with his two young sons. “Every day we hear news that makes us un­der­stand that we are fur­ther and fur­ther away from democ­racy. Peo­ple have had enough.”

Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda, who is al­lied with the rul­ing party, ex­pressed deep con­cern and de­clared a readi­ness to me­di­ate in the dis­pute.

The rul­ing party, which has in­creased wel­fare spend­ing, still re­mains pop­u­lar with many Poles, par­tic­u­larly those out­side of the ci­ties and on mod­est in­comes.

Some pro­test­ers held up copies of the con­sti­tu­tion, to show they be­lieve it was not be­ing ob­served by the rul­ing party. They also chanted “Sol­i­dar­ity!” re­flect­ing how many link to­day’s protests to the an­ti­com­mu­nist op­po­si­tion of the past.

Ryszard Petru, head of the Mod­ern op­po­si­tion party, told the crowd in War­saw that Poles would not ac­cept the “dic­ta­tors” who are try­ing to re­strict the ac­cess of jour­nal­ists to par­lia­ment. He even sug­gested an early elec­tion.

In Poland’s big­gest par­lia­men­tary cri­sis in years, op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers protested the gov­ern­ment me­dia plan Fri­day, block­ing a vote on the bud­get.

Govern­ing party mem­bers then voted in another hall, but the op­po­si­tion says the vote was flawed and il­le­gal.

Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers are now de­mand­ing a re­peat vote on Tues­day.

The Se­nate speaker was to meet with me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tives to dis­cuss the new rules for re­porters.

Pro­test­ers sing their na­tional an­them dur­ing an antigov­ern­ment demon­stra­tion in War­saw on Satur­day. The group wants to pro­tect the young democ­racy's con­sti­tu­tional or­der.

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