26th July 2017
Public Affairs Director Paweł Purski from Grayling in Warsaw analyses the situation in Poland after the president vetoed the acts on the Supreme Court and the National Judiciary Council.
Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, decided to send two controversial acts – on the Supreme Court and on the National Judiciary Council – back to the Sejm for a repeat vote. The third act, on the common organization of the courts, was signed by the President on 25th July.
The three acts reforming the judicial system in Poland had been adopted last week by the Polish parliament and were awaiting the President’s signature. The way in which the acts were scrutinized (very quickly and chaotically), as well as controversy over their constitutional legality, caused massive street demonstrations in Polish cities and were strongly opposed by the public at large. Unlike previous demonstrations, many young people took to the streets and flooded social media with negative comments, signaling their participation in the political life of Poland.
Despite strong political pressure from Law and Justice, Andrzej Duda refused to sign the two controversial acts. Duda expressed his opinion that both acts contradicted the Polish Constitution. The Sejm (the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament) could still overturn Duda’s veto with a 3/5 majority. It is, however, very unlikely, due to the fact that Law and Justice has only 236 MPs (a 3/5 majority would require 276 MPs) and virtually the whole opposition stood against the acts. The President announced that he would present his own amended acts on the Supreme Court and the National Judiciary Council in the coming two months.
The third controversial act, inter alia giving the Minister of Justice the right to replace the chairmen of local courts, will enter into force. This decision saw continued mass protests across the country, however with a clearly lower number of participants.
Both the President and the Prime Minister, addressed speeches to the nation. In the words of Prime Minister Beata Szydło “The president's veto has slowed down the work on the reform of the judicial system. [..] What's more, it has been treated as an incentive by those fighting to uphold the unfair system". She stressed that many Polish people had been wronged by the judicial system, and that she was being convinced about this during her everyday meetings with people. The President underlined that the Polish judiciary system does require reform, and promised to submit new draft bills to reform the judiciary system.
It is still difficult to read the political game behind these developments. Initial commentary suggesting that the President has achieved a certain independence from the ruling party should be treated with caution. It surely is a sign of change in Polish politics but its extent can only be properly assessed in the days to come. Reform of the judiciary will progress, but this time with more stakeholders involved and more public dialogue.
The financial markets reacted positively to the decision. The Polish Złoty strengthened against both the Euro and the Dollar. The prospect of a judicial crisis, which could have resulted in investor uncertainty regarding the rule of law in Poland, has been delayed if not entirely refuted.
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