The Polish parliament has approved government proposals to hand the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) effective control of judicial appointments and the supreme court, in a move seen by critics as an erosion of judicial independence.
The government describes the plans as a necessary means to speed up the process of issuing judgments and to break what it describes as the grip of a “privileged caste” of lawyers and judges. But a coalition of civil society groups has warned that Poland will “definitively cease to be a democratic state of law” once the legislation is approved by the senate and the president, and becomes law.
A previous attempt to assume control of the justice system by the government in July was derailed by large-scale street protests and the surprise decision by the president, Andrzej Duda, to veto the proposals after they had been approved by the Polish parliament.
The presidential vetoes resulted in months of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Duda, a former PiS MEP, and Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of PiS who nominated Duda for the presidency, raising hopes of a government climbdown.
But to the dismay of those who cheered Duda’s vetoes in July, the proposals announced last month as a result of those negotiations pave the way for the party to assume control of the National Judiciary Council (KRS), the body that makes judicial appointments, by terminating the term of office of the existing members and giving the parliamentary majority the right to nominate a majority of their replacements in the event of a stalemate.
My report for the Guardian can be found here.