Thousands protest in Warsaw ahead of judicial reform vote

Poland's senate on Saturday adopted two controversial judicial bills, which the opposition claims is yet another step by the conservative majority towards undermining the separation of powers.

Thousands of government opponents protested in Warsaw and other cities in Poland on Sunday against new judicial reforms and future plans to change the Supreme Court.

"Today we know that a great fight has begun and we know we must be together, we know we must fight against them together", Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the largest political grouping, the Civic Platform, told the crowd.

The PiS has already run afoul of the European Commission and critics at home for implementing reforms of the Constitutional Court, whose main role is to check that laws are compliant with the constitution.

"Shame, shame" chanted protesters gathered in Warsaw under Polish and European Union flags, and calling Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of PiS and the country's de facto leader, a "dictator". A daytime demonstration near the parliament in Warsaw was estimated to have drawn from 4,500 (according to police) to 10,000-plus (according to the city authorities that hail from the opposition). One of the high court's tasks is to call the outcome of elections.

Leaders of various political parties and organizations assemble on the steps of Krakow's Town Hall Tower to speak out against the bill by PiS
Leaders of various political parties and organizations assemble on the steps of Krakow’s Town Hall Tower to speak out against the bill by PiS

The proposed bill stipulates that the current Supreme Court judges will be forced to retire, with the exception of those indicated by the justice minister, who would also be responsible for selecting candidates to succeed the retired judges.

Previous demonstrations have taken place to protest against PiS control of public broadcaster TVP and efforts to limit media access to the Sejm.

Another bill gives the minister for justice power to replace, within six months, both the presidents and directors of Polish courts, who handle the cases and finances respectively.

Concern over the government's court reform is not reflected in polls, showing Poland's ruling PiS steady or rising, to 36 per cent support.

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