Polish tribunal strikes down government bill as constitutional crisis extends

By bne IntelliNews December 10, 2015

Poland’s constitutional court ruled against the government again on December 9, however, the new government insists it will not back down.

Known as the Constitutional Tribunal, the court ruled that key provisions of a bill seeking to regulate the court's functioning, pushed through the parliament by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) in late November, were in breach of the Polish constitution. The ruling extends the constitutional crisis raging in Poland since early December.

At that time, PiS elected five new judges to the tribunal, seeking to replace a group elected by the previous parliament, under the Civic Platform (PO) government. However, the tribunal ruled three of five judges appointed by the previous parliament legitimate. The latest ruling effectively calls again for the government to allow the appointment of the trio.

Government affiliated President Andrzej Duda swore the PiS appointees in anyway, in a late night ceremony. He has at the same time refused to swear in the three PO-appointed judges ruled legitimate by tribunal. That, according to some, is a clear violation of the constitution.

On December 9, the tribunal once more ruled against the new government, denied the legitimacy of a bill seeking to change some aspects of the tribunal’s functioning, such as ending of the term of the current head of the court and his deputy.

The ruling also stated directly that none of the five PiS-appointed judges can work in the tribunal as they were appointed illegally. The government pushed their nomination through parliament via an ordinary vote; the rules require a parliamentary resolution.

However, PiS appears unfazed. “[The ruling] means the parliament needs to do some more work on the bill. As for [the PiS-appointed judges], the case is closed,” said Stanislaw Piotrowicz, head of the parliamentary justice committee, referring to the swearing in of the judges by the president.

The statement only appears to confirm the current mess, with Poland having in effect two sets of constitutional judges, one questioning the legitimacy of the other.


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