Philippine Daily Inquirer

Poland’s Lech Walesa joins protests again

No­bel lau­re­ate fears civil war over War­saw’s ‘un­demo­cratic re­forms’


WAR­SAW— No­bel Peace Prize win­ner and for­mer Pol­ish pres­i­dent Lech Walesa on Wed­nes­day joined thou­sands of protesters op­pos­ing ju­di­cial changes that the Eu­ro­pean Union has crit­i­cized as un­demo­cratic.

The 74-year-old Walesa, who ne­go­ti­ated a peace­ful end to com­mu­nism in Poland in 1989, told protesters that the gov­ern­ment was “vi­o­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tion.”

Get­ting se­ri­ous

“It is get­ting se­ri­ous when they ruin our courts,” Walesa told thou­sands protest­ing a mea­sure which places judges un­der the con­trol of the rul­ing right-wing Law and Jus­tice party (PiS).

“Re­ally, sooner or later this may lead to a civil war,” said Walesa who, as leader of the Sol­i­dar­ity la­bor union, led protests in the 1980s that forced the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment to agree to free elec­tions.

Sol­i­dar­ity’s elec­toral vic­tory in 1989 even­tu­ally led to the col­lapse of other com­mu­nist regimes in Europe.

“[But] I come peace­fully, I don’t want to use arms,” Walesa joked with cheer­ing protesters. “If these protests will con­tinue, I will come to join you now and then.”

Method of con­trol

The dis­puted new law low­ers the re­tire­ment age from 70 to 65, af­fect­ing 27 of the court’s 73 judges, and al­lows the pres­i­dent to ex­tend their terms with­out rea­son.

But the pres­i­dent of the Supreme Court, Mal­go­rzata Gers­dorf, de­fied the new law by go­ing to her of­fice on Wed­nes­day with hun­dreds of sup­port­ers ap­plaud­ing her.

“My pres­ence here is not about pol­i­tics, I am here to pro­tect the rule of law,” said 65-yearold Gers­dorf, who is now re­quired to re­tire.

Rule of law

But Pol­ish lawyers said the law can­not work retroac­tively, a com­mon tenet un­der civil law ju­ris­dic­tions.

“This leg­is­la­tion... is clearly un­con­sti­tu­tional,” said Pol­ish con­sti­tu­tional ex­pert Marek Ch­maj. “[This] could lead to paral­y­sis at the Supreme Court.”

The PiS party has taken con­trol of the ju­di­ciary, in­clud­ing the con­sti­tu­tional court and prose­cu­tors, who now re­port to the jus­tice min­is­ter.

The Eu­ro­pean Union ac­cused the PiS of try­ing to con­trol the ju­di­ciary and sub­vert demo­cratic stan­dards.

Don’t med­dle

But Pol­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ma­teusz Mo­raw­iecki said the changes were needed to free the ju­di­ciary of com­mu­nist-era think­ing and prac­tices.

“Each EU state has the right to shape their le­gal sys­tem ac­cord­ing to their own tra­di­tions,” Mo­raw­iecki told the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day in Stras­bourg.

But EU law­mak­ers, like Mal­tese law­maker Roberta Met­sola, told Mo­raw­iecki the “re­form” was about “con­sol­i­dat­ing (gov­ern­ment) con­trol by weak­en­ing the in­sti­tu­tions de­signed to keep you in check.”

 ??  ?? BACK IN THEGROOVE For­mer Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Lech Walesa speaks to protesters at Poland’s Supreme Court build­ing in War­saw.
BACK IN THEGROOVE For­mer Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Lech Walesa speaks to protesters at Poland’s Supreme Court build­ing in War­saw.

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