Polish government seeks to end constitutional row

By bne IntelliNews July 8, 2016

Poland’s ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) passed new legislation on the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) on July 7. The opposition claims, however, the move was simply posturing ahead of the Nato summit taking place on July 8-9.

Poland has been locked in a constitutional crisis since early in 2016, when the government attempted to appoint several new judges and adjust the rules on how the court operates. Those moves were ruled unconstitutional by the tribunal in a key ruling in March. PiS has refused to accept that verdict however, and the court has remained frozen since. PiS has appeared unmoved by pressure from the EU, but seems less confident in taking on the White House.

The new bill goes some way to addressing the criticism of the previous attempt at reforming the TK, which many see as an attempt to make it harder for the court to hold back PiS' political agenda. According to the new bill, fewer judges will be needed to issue rulings, which can now be reached by a simple majority rather than the two thirds required by the previous legislation.

However, the opposition claims that a number of other provisions within the new legislation make it clear that PiS is merely posturing ahead of the Nato summit. The government has been uncharacteristically quiet regarding comments from US officials in recent weeks announcing that President Barack Obama plans to speak to peer Andrzej Duda about the constitutional crisis.

The eurosceptic PiS makes no bones about its stance that the US is Poland's most important ally. Meanwhile, with a wary eye one Russia, Warsaw hopes to convince Nato at the summit to boost its presence in the region.

The opposition has vowed to ask the tribunal to rule on the constitutionality of the new legislation. That carries the danger that the new bill might only exacerbate the crisis. The court is thought unlikely to proceed in line with the new law; PiS has still not accepted its key ruling from March, and there are doubts on some of the new rules.


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