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Polish opposition suspends protest in parliament

PR dla Zagranicy
Roberto Galea 12.01.2017 14:44
Poland’s largest opposition party on Thursday called off a sit-in protest after occupying the lower house for almost four weeks amid a political crisis that threatened to paralyse the parliament.
Photo: PAP/Bartłomiej ZborowskiPhoto: PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski

The leader of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński said that it’s “a good thing” that the protest was ended, but added that “conclusions have to be drawn”.

He reiterated earlier claims that legal action should be taken against the opposition MPs who protested in the plenary hall of parliament.

Thursday’s session was a continuation of one started the previous evening by Speaker Marek Kuchciński, but only lasted a few minutes before he called a recess until 25 January.

The session was the was first one since the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which holds a majority in parliament, passed a controversial bill on the 2017 budget.

PiS says that the vote, which was held in an ancillary room on 16 December was in line with regulations, and the decision of a change of venue was taken because opposition MPs were occupying the parliamentary hall, blocking proceedings.

On Wednesday, Senate passed the bill, and it is now waiting to be signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Just minutes before Thursday’s session, Civic Platform, Poland’s largest opposition party, announced it would suspend the sit-in protest it had staged in parliament since 16 December.

The decision was announced by party leader Grzegorz Schetyna, who added that the party still believes the contentious vote on the 2017 budget was “illegal”.

“In view of the fact that we were able to restore the presence of the media in parliament, and the possibility of unhindered broadcast of parliamentary debate and parliamentary activity, we have decided to suspend our protest,” Schetyna said.

Media broadcasters had been excluded from entering the observation platform, and recording the proceedings of the lower house.

PO and Nowoczesna MPs had started the protest following a proposal by authorities to curb the access of media outlets to the parliament building. One PO deputy who protested the decision during the budget debate in December had his voting rights revoked.

Other MPs from the opposition then stormed the rostrum, causing Speaker Kuchciński to move the vote to an ancillary hall. In total, PO occupied the parliament for 27 days.

On Thursday morning Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said that the protesting deputies could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of a criminal offence. (rg/pk)

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