Location Poland Poland

Political crisis in Poland

Poland faces a constitutional crisis that began whilst the Civic Platform coalition still had majority in Parliament. Under this coalition an amendment was passed that allowed for parliament to elect 3 judges to the Constitutional Court in place of those whose terms were to expire before the next parliamentary election. However, the Civic Platform chose to elect an additional 2 judges, whose seats were not open for election. These seats were only supposed to become available after the next parliamentary elections. The trigger of the current constitutional conflict can be found in the election of these 2 judges, which was deemed to unconstitutional by the very same court. It has also allowed Prawo i Sprawiedziwość[1](PiS) to attempt to blame the previous government for initiating the crisis. However, it is the position that PiS has chosen to take, a position in which they deem parliament to have absolute power over any other democratic institution that has in fact led to this crisis.

In a series of amendments passed by PiS, since their election, they have continued to attempt to change the modus operandi of the Constitutional Court. These changes weaken the Court, allowing PiS to pass unconstitutional laws with impunity and potentially leading to Court’s legal paralysis. Without a fully independent Court, the rule of law within the polish democracy is under direct threat and an imbalance of power exists. After similar set backs in Hungary, the European Union has become sensitized to such risks and reacted under the 2014 Framework enacted by the European Commission, aimed to address such threats to shared democratic values, without having to immediately invoke Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU). This framework aimed to faciliatate the resolving of such issues through dialogue without having to immediately resort to sanctions.

On 27 July of this year (2016) the European Commission issued a series of recommendations aimed to encourage the PiS government to return to honouring judgements and remove all obstacles to the Court’s effective functioning[2]. Poland was given 3 months to react these recommendations. On 27 October, the PiS government responded, indicating that it does not intend to implement any of the recommendations. Their response went even further, accusing the European Commission of paying little attention to and being ignorant of Polish law. Ironically, a reason given for their response is that the implementation of such recommendations would be unconstitutional and an infringement of Polish Law[3]. Most concerningly, the PiS government, in leaked documents, stated that the reccomendations are based on a false assumption that the Constitutional Court plays an important role in the maintenance of rule of law within the Polish legal system.

By blatantly refusing to implement these recommendations the PiS government has placed Poland in a precarious position within the EU. The EU Commission Framework indicates that when the “talking” is over, the next step would be to invoke Article 7 of the TEU, suspending Poland’s voting rights as a Member State.

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