Poland's Senate okays court reform

WARSAW • Poland's Senate approved a controversial reform of the Supreme Court early yesterday, despite warnings from the European Union, appeals from Washington and massive street protests against the measure.

The legislation, which was pushed through by Parliament last Wednesday, was approved by 55 senators, with 23 opposed and two abstentions.

During the 15-hour debate, thousands took to the streets nationwide to protest against the measure, which reinforces political control over the Supreme Court.

The reform of the Supreme Court, which supervises lower courts, must still be signed by President Andrzej Duda, from the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, to become law.

He has 21 days to sign the document, veto it, or submit it to the Constitutional Court if in doubt.

The opposition and protesters are all calling on Mr Duda to veto the reform, as well as two other measures recently adopted, which they say increase the control of the executive branch of government over the judiciary.

The opposition argues that the measures amount to a "coup d'etat" but the PiS says the reforms are essential to rationalise the judicial system and fight corruption.

Under the current system, candidates for the Supreme Court are selected by an independent body consisting mainly of judges but also includes a few politicians.

The European Commission has warned against the changes, threatening to halt Poland's voting rights.

While noting that Poland is a close ally, the US State Department said in a statement that America was concerned by the legislation.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Poland's Senate okays court reform'. Print Edition | Subscribe