[JURIST] The Polish Parliament [official website] approved a bill on Thursday that will implement sweeping reforms to the country’s judicial system. Most notably, the bill will allow members of parliament to appoint Supreme Court judges, a move that the EU, many Polish lawyers, and citizens of Poland strongly opposed. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party [party website, in Polish] pushed the bill through just days after thousands of people [JURIST report] rallied in Warsaw to protest what has been seen as a massive power-grab by the party. Donald Tusk [official website], President of the European Council [official website] and a former Prime Minister of Poland released a statement [text] voicing concern over the bill:
Bringing the courts under the control of the governing party in the manner proposed by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) will ruin the already tarnished public opinion about Polish democracy. We must therefore find a solution which will be accepted by the Poles, the parliamentary majority and the opposition, the President and the European Union. I know this is hard. It will require concessions, mutual respect and a little bit of trust. Hard, yet not impossible. But there is very little time left.
The bill now goes before President Andrzej Duda [official website] who will need to sign before it goes into law. Thus far, Duda has not indicated any reluctance to sign the bill.
PiS has drawn ire from those in the international community for threatening democracy in Poland. In August 2016 Polish prosecutors began an investigation [JURIST report] into Constitutional Tribunal [official website] head, Andrzej Rzeplinski, to determine if he abused his power in preventing judges appointed by the ruling party to take part in decisions. In June of last year the European Commission issued a warning to Poland over the appointment of the three judges. The EU began examining Poland’s decision regarding the Constitutional Court [JURIST reports] in January 2016. That February the Polish government passed a controversial surveillance law [JURIST report] that grants the government [press release, Polish] greater access to digital data and broader use of surveillance for law enforcement. In December 2015 the leader of the European Parliament [official website] compared PiS’ rise to power in Poland to a coup [BBC report], leading to Parliament calling for an apology. PiS has rejected [DW report] criticisms that its policies are undermining democracy in Poland.