Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Poland’s capital Saturday as the constitutional court crisis between the ruling Law and Justice government and the country’s top court continues.
After coming to power in October elections with 37 percent support, the conservative and European Union-critical Law and Justice party has attempted to change how the country’s top court works, with the court calling the move unconstitutional, the BBC reported. The changes include increasing the number of judges, which the court fears could limit its ability to challenge legislation from the government.
The government has refused to publish the court’s rulings because doing so would make them binding, while claiming judges have broken the law.
“Years ago, Poles protested to change the political system,” said former World Bank economist Ryszard Petru, leader of the liberal opposition Modern party, Reuters reported. “Now we’re protesting to make sure they don't suddenly change it.”
Demonstrators in Warsaw carried European Union flags along with Polish flags Saturday. Poland has been criticized by the Venice Commission, the rights body of the Council of Europe, for its recent actions with the constitutional court. In a report released Friday, the commission said, “As long as the situation of constitutional crisis related to the Constitutional Tribunal remains unsettled and as long as the Constitutional Tribunal cannot carry out its work in an efficient manner, not only is the rule of law in danger, but so is democracy and human rights.”
The EU, U.S. and human rights groups have all criticized Poland in recent months, with the Law and Justice party also passing a media law allowing the government to control public television and radio.
Poland’s Parliament is now expected to debate the new rules for the court, a government spokesperson said.