Polish president refuses to dampen constitutional crisis

By bne IntelliNews December 8, 2015

President Andrzej Duda will not swear in three judges to Poland's Constitutional Tribunal that were elected by the previous parliament and ruled eligible by the country's highest court, his spokesman said on December 8. The refusal extends a constitutional crisis that has gripped Poland for days.

The president, formerly a member of the Law and Justice (PiS) party that won parliamentary elections in October, will also insist on swearing in an additional judge appointed by his affiliated party earlier this month, the spokesman added.

Both moves ignore a constitutional court ruling from December 3, in which it said the president has no choice but to swear in judges elected by the previous parliament under the Civic Platform (PO) government. Indirectly, the ruling means the swearing in of the PiS-appointed judges cannot be sworn in.

Duda’s decision appears to keep Poland stuck in constitutional crisis. The president is clearly pushing to help PiS establish a friendly top court to make sure the party’s campaign promises are not put at risk. According to constitutional experts, by refusing to swear in the three judges put forward by PO and approved by the court, the president is breaching the Polish constitution.

The tussle over Poland's highest court - also known as the Constitutional Court - began in late November when PiS sought to reverse the appointment of five judges by PO. The new government then used its majority in parliament to vote through five new judges, four of which Duda promptly swore in.

The court ruled in early December that two of the appointments were not eligible; a consequence of PO's own manipulation of the constitution, for which it was also heavily criticised. However, it supported the appointment of the other three.

The stand off left the tribunal in chaos. In effect, the institution now has two rival groups of judges, each questioning the legitimacy of the other. Duda appears unmoved by his duty as president to help sort out the mess.


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