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Polish gov't unveils plan to reshape constitutional court

04.03.2024 23:00
The Polish government has proposed what it says is a comprehensive reform aimed at depoliticizing the country's Constitutional Tribunal and ensuring it serves as a guardian of citizens' rights and constitutional law rather than political interests.
Polish Justice Minister Adam Bodnar.
Polish Justice Minister Adam Bodnar.Photo: EPA/OLIVIER MATTHYS

The reform, unveiled at a press conference by Justice Minister Adam Bodnar and lawmaker Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, head of the parliamentary justice committee, includes significant changes to the criteria for judge selection and the introduction of a qualified majority voting system for their appointment.

Under the proposed legislation, only individuals who have not been members of a political party, deputies or senators for at least four years can be considered for the role of a Constitutional Tribunal judge.

Additionally, the selection of judges will require a three-fifths majority, aiming to foster broader consensus and reduce political influence in the appointment process.

The reform also introduce staggered terms for judges, with five being elected for three years, another five for six years, and the remaining five for a full nine-year term, aligning with the constitutionally mandated tenure for Constitutional Tribunal judges.

The initiative, described by Gasiuk-Pihowicz as a "genuinely depoliticizing" effort, seeks to restore Poland's reputation as a democratic, lawful and credible nation, she said.

It has been termed a "citizen-expert project," and is seen as a response to the heated political debate surrounding the Tribunal.

Senator Jacek Trela of the Polska 2050 group highlighted the proposals for a dispersed control of constitutional compliance, which would involve general courts in the review of legislation's constitutionality, necessitating constitutional amendments.

This approach aims to bring citizens closer to the courts and the constitution, allowing for more accessible legal recourse.

In a related development, Anna Maria Żukowska, head of the parliamentary caucus of the Left, pointed to the legislative changes as a step towards restoring lawfulness and democracy in Poland.

She criticized the current Tribunal's rulings, particularly the controversial 2020 decision on abortion, as legally flawed.

The proposed parliamentary resolution seeks to declare such rulings as non-binding, a move that underscores the reform's potential to significantly impact Poland's legal and social landscape.

The Tribunal is tasked with adjudicating on the compliance of laws with the country's constitution.

The previous government's efforts to reshape the judiciary resulted in suspension of EU recovery funds for Poland, which were only unblocked last week.


Source: IAR, PAP