Amid protests, president puts brakes on judicial shake-up
WARSAW, POLAND» President Andrzej Duda unexpectedly announced Monday he will veto two bills that would have curtailed the independence of the judiciary sharply, a victory for protesters who had gathered by candlelight every night for more than a week.
The European Union criticized the bills as assaults on democratic checks and balances and threatened to begin proceedings soon to strip Poland of its voting rights.
Duda “made the right decision,” Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of a liberal alliance in the European Parliament, tweeted. “But the fight for rule of law in Poland goes on — we are with the Polish people!”
The protests mark one of the most significant acts of civic mobilization since the Solidarity protests led by Lech Walesa in the 1980s, with large numbers of young Poles attending rallies daily fearing they might lose a future in a democratic state fully integrated in the West. Many Poles fear a loss of basic democratic rights will change the country into a semi-authoritarian state, mirroring conditions in Eastern Europe.
Walesa, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president who helped end Communist rule peacefully in 1989, praised Duda for what he called “a difficult and a courageous decision.”