The Latest: Anti-govt protesters march in Polish cities
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on Poland’s move to give politicians influence over Supreme Court (all times local):
Thousands of government opponents are gathering in Warsaw, Krakow and other cities across Poland to urge President Andrzej Duda to reject legislation that would give the ruling party control of the Supreme Court and the judiciary.
People with national and European Union flags gathered before the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. Many are holding “3 X veto” signs to make Duda reject the bills on the Supreme Court and other judicial bodies that are waiting for his signature to become law.
Others are holding placards with the word “Constitution” — a reference to accusations the governing party is destroying the constitutional order.
Protester Tadeusz Przybylski, 61, said he opposed the communists decades ago and was back now because the ruling party’s moves to control the judiciary have led to a “lack of democracy and justice.”
A huge crowd has also gathered in Renaissance Market Square in Krakow.
Polish democracy icon and ex-President Lech Walesa has told a large crowd of anti-government protesters in Gdansk that he will always support their struggle.
Walesa’s address in Gdansk came amid mass nationwide protests over a plan by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party that would put the Supreme Court and the rest of the judicial system under political control.
The 73-year-old Walesa recalled the democratic changes he helped usher in more than 25 years ago, and said the separation of powers into three branches was the most important achievement of his Solidarity movement. He said the Law and Justice party had no right to destroy that achievement.
Walesa told the young people in the crowd: “You must use all means to take back what we achieved for you.”
Hungary’s prime minister says his country will use all available legal means to protect Poland from the European Union’s “inquisition campaign.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orban says that the EU is targeting Poland and seeking to weaken individual member states.
Orban spoke a day after Poland’s Senate approved new legislation that gives politicians significant influence over the nation’s Supreme Court. The EU has criticized the legislation and has threatened to impose sanctions on Poland.
Orban said that “at this moment, the main target of the inquisition, the example of national governance to be weakened, destroyed and broken is Poland.”
Orban says the EU leadership is encroaching on EU member states’ rights and trying to apply policies, such as increased immigration, which are opposed by most Europeans.
A pro-democracy movement in Poland says that former president and democracy icon Lech Walesa will join a protest they are holding against new legislation that gives politicians significant control of the nation’s top court.
Despite mass peaceful protests, the legislation on the Supreme Court was approved by the Senate on Saturday and only requires the approval of President Andrzej Duda to become law. Opponents say it would destroy judicial independence and violate the rule of law.
A new round of street protests is planned by government opponents across Poland later in the day to urge Duda not to sign it.
One of the organizing groups, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, says Walesa will join the protest in his hometown of Gdansk, on the Baltic coast.
The spokesman for Poland’s president says the leader sees flaws in contentious legislation adopted by the Senate that gives politicians significant influence over the nation’s top court.
Andrzej Duda’s spokesman, Andrzej Lapinski, stopped short of saying whether the president would reject the bill or seek the opinion of the constitutional court. Duda has 21 days to sign it into law.
The legislation, approved early Saturday, has drawn condemnation from European Union leaders and has led to major protests across Poland.
Proposed by the populist ruling party, it gives the justice minister and the president the power to appoint and assess Supreme Court judges. Critics say that will kill off judicial independence.
Lapinski said that Duda sees inconsistency between two articles regarding the appointment of the court’s head.