Polish government delays controversial judicial reform bill

By bne IntelliNews June 9, 2017

Poland’s ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), late on June 8, delayed a parliamentary vote on a controversial bill that would hand MPs control over the judiciary. The reform, should it be passed, would only worsen the contfrontation with the EU over the rule of law and democracy in Poland.

PiS took the crucial vote off the parliamentary agenda amidst speculation of disagreement within the party, as well as between the party and the president. The reform aims at instituting parliamentary control over the Polish Judiciary Council (KRS), the body that decides on the appointment of judges.
 
The bill has drawn not only the predictable ire of the opposition and Polish judegs but also the Council of Europe, which criticised it for violating the constitution and threatening further degeneration of the country’s system of checks and balances. Brussels has been stuck in a bad tempered spat with PiS over the ruling party's efforts to take control of the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) since January 2016.

The ongoing scrap over the judiciary has deteriorated Poland’s standing within the bloc. The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks called upon PiS in April to give up on the reform, as it would "encroach upon the independence of the judiciary."

"The selection of members of the judiciary should be a decision process wholly independent of the government, so as to stave off the risk of any undue political influence," Muiznieks said.

It remains unclear when the vote on the KRS will return to the parliamentary agenda. Polish media speculate that there is some disagreement within the party about the reform.

President Andrzej Duda said in April he had “doubts” about the measure. The president can order a review of the reform by the TK, but the opposition claims such move would be just a publicity stunt, given PiS’ control over the TK.

 

 

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