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New constitution sought amid Poland's political crisis

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 18.12.2015 18:28
Polish MPs have unveiled plans to change the constitution and cut short the terms of all judges on the country’s powerful Constitutional Tribunal.
Kukiz'15 leader Paweł Kukiz. Photo: PAP/Tomasz GzellKukiz'15 leader Paweł Kukiz. Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell

The sweeping changes proposed by MPs from the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party and the opposition Kukiz'15 grouping are the latest gambit in a political battle over the Constitutional Tribunal that has divided the country, triggering street protests. More demonstrations are planned for this weekend.

However, PiS and Kukiz'15 face a struggle to assemble enough votes to change the constitution.

“The proposed changes will lead to the end of the ongoing conflict dividing the country into two opposing camps,” the MPs proposing the changes said. “They will also provide a guarantee that a similar conflict will not take place in the future.”

Under the new plans, all judges currently sitting on the tribunal would lose their posts 60 days after a change to the constitution was approved. These would be replaced by new judges, the online edition of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported.

Among other proposed changes, the Constitutional Tribunal would consist of 18 judges, rather than the 15 at present. And new judges would be chosen by parliament by a two-thirds majority, rather than a simple majority as at present.

Law and Justice’s opponents have accused the party, which came to power in October’s general elections, of eroding democracy by forcing through the appointment of five new judges to the Constitutional Tribunal in recent weeks.

The former centrist government led by the Civic Platform (PO) party had voted in its own choice of five judges through parliament just prior to losing power, a move Law and Justice said was unfair.

The Constitutional Tribunal, ruling on its own case, said that two out of the five judges voted in at the eleventh hour under PO had been appointed prematurely. PiS fears the current tribunal will block key reforms it has in the pipeline.

Any change to the Polish constitution has to be backed in parliament by two-thirds of MPs, with at least half of parliamentarians present.

PiS and Kukiz'15 together have 275 MPs in the 460-seat lower house and would need to persuade around 30 additional opposition deputies to back their plan. The only other way the two parties could get their changes passed is if some opposition MPs were absent from the vote. (pk/nh)

Sources: wyborcza.pl/polskieradio.pl

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