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Polish president calls for constitution to be re-examined

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 03.05.2016 08:00
Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday called for the country’s constitution to be examined and a "new solution" drawn up.
President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata during ceremonies at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Radek PietruszkaPresident Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata during ceremonies at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

He was speaking as Poland marked Constitution Day, a public holiday when the country celebrates a historic document adopted on 3 May, 1791.

Poles proudly point out that the document was the first modern constitution in Europe and the second worldwide, following the American Constitution, which was created in 1787.

Echoing an address a day earlier by Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Duda said the country's current constitution was a "constitution of a time of transition" adding that it "should be examined, a thorough evaluation carried out and a new solution drawn up.”

The president stressed this should be done in consultation with Polish society, trade unions, NGOs, MPs and senators.

Time for a change?

In a speech on Monday, Kaczyński said Law and Justice aims to change the current Polish constitution, which was adopted in 1997, less than a decade after Poland shook off communism.

Marek Magierowski, head of the President’s Office press department, said he hoped that bitter political rows ongoing in Poland “would not cast a shadow over [Tuesday's] celebrations.”

But thousands of protesters critical of the Law and Justice government took to the streets in the northern city of Gdańsk in a “March of the Angry”.

Voices for status quo

Among them was Mateusz Kijowski, leader of the anti-government Committee for the Defence of Democracy, who said that the current constitution "is for us today really the only point of reference when we talk about the rights and freedoms of citizens."

Earlier on Tuesday, Duda took part in a patriotic Catholic Mass at St. John's Archcathedral in Warsaw. He also handed out state orders at the capital's Royal Castle.

The Order of the White Eagle, the country’s oldest and most important honour, was awarded to six people, including former athlete and seven-time Olympic medallist Irena Szewińska, film score composer Michał Lorenc, and communist-era oppositionist Zofia Romaszewska.

An original manuscript of the historic 1791 constitution could be seen at Warsaw’s Kordegarda gallery on Tuesday, in a rare public showing.

That document, regarded as a milestone in Polish history, introduced a series of progressive reforms and a system of constitutional monarchy. But it remained in force for just 14 months.

Meanwhile, the third partition of Poland in 1795 by Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary ended the existence of the country as a sovereign state for 123 years. (pk)

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