Poland adopts Supreme Court reform

Warsaw: Polish lawmakers on Thursday adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court, despite days of street protests, concern from the opposition over judicial independence and EU threats of unprecedented sanctions.
The Lower House of Parliament, which is controlled by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, voted 235 to 192 — with 23 abstentions — in favour of the law giving the justice minister power to select candidates for the court.
“The adoption of this reform violates the principles of the rule of law because it subjects the judiciary to political power. This paves the way for a non-democratic system in Poland,” political analyst Stanislaw Mocek of the Polish Academy of Sciences said.
“The situation is very serious and could get out of hand. We don’t see a will for compromise on the part of PiS, and the opposition is too weak,” he said, as protesters were scheduled to rally in front of the presidential palace later.
The measure is only the latest in a slew of contested judicial reforms that the PiS says are necessary to make the judicial system more effective and fight against corruption.
But Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the centrist opposition party Civic Platform (PO), had denounced the Supreme Court reform earlier on Thursday as “a rampant coup”.
The European Commission’s vice- president Frans Timmermans for his part bluntly warned the changes “considerably increase the systemic threat to the rule of law” in Poland.
“Collectively, they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government,” he said on Wednesday. He had warned Poland that if it did not suspend the reforms, the Commission could move towards halting Poland’s voting rights in the 28-nation bloc further down the line — a so-called “nuclear option” that the EU had never invoked.
The measure still needs to be adopted by the senate, also controlled by the PiS, and signed by President Andrzej Duda to become law.
Duda, a lawyer-turned-politician who is closely allied with the PiS, on Thursday let it be known that he had refused a meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk, who had expressed concern over the situation. — AFP