Ten of thousands joined demonstrations in cities across Poland for the second week in a row, to protest against the new conservative government’s attempts to take control of the country’s Constitutional Court.
Demonstrations took place in Warsaw and around 20 other Polish cities.
The Law and Justice party who won elections in October, have been trying to appoint judges of its choice to the Constitutional Court.
MPs have accused the party, which now controls both houses of parliament and the presidency, of carrying out a “creeping coup d’etat”.
Critics are concerned that the government is trying to neuter the court.
The rallies against the actions of the month-old government formed by the ruling Law and Justice party were staged in more than 20 cities in different regions of Poland as well as in several cities abroad, including London, Brussels, Berlin and Tokyo, according to rally organizers.
— M.R.Nowosielski (@MrNowosielski) December 19, 2015
A protest in front of the parliament building in the Polish capital of Warsaw was attended by about 20,000 Poles, Reuters reported citing city officials. The protesters were waving Polish and EU flags and chanting “Stop destroying democracy!” and, “We will defend democracy, constitution and Constitutional Court!”
— KOD (@Kom_Obr_Dem) December 19, 2015
The demonstrators were also carrying banners and placards that read “no to the dictatorship!” and “hands off Constitutional Court!”
The rally was organized by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy movement (KOD) via social networks and was supported by all major opposition parties with some politicians, including a former Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski,who attended the demonstration. Many activists from Poland’s Solidarity movement, which opposed the country’s Soviet regime in the 1980s also joined the protest.
“We have our freedoms and we will fight in order to protect them,” the founder of the KOD movement, Mateusz Kijowski, said as quoted by Germany’s Tagesspiegel newspaper.
However, the demonstration was disbanded early and lasted only two hours because of an anonymous bomb threat that later turned out to be a hoax.
Protests were also staged in the cities of Poznan and Gdansk, which were attended by 4,000 Poles each, as well as in the eastern Polish city of Lublin, where about 1,000 took to the streets, German media reported.
The wave of public outrage was provoked by a bill proposed by the new government that requires a two-thirds majority in the 15-judge Constitutional Court for any of its rulings to be valid. The critics of the ruling party claim such legislation, which is due to be passed on Monday, would paralyze the work of the judicial body, as such a majority could hardly ever be reached in the case of contentious issues.
After Poland’s parliamentary elections, which were held in October, the current ruling Law and Justice party gained a majority in both houses of parliament, with Polish President Andrzej Duda also a supporter of the new government.
In this situation, the government’s attempts to take control over the Constitutional Court are regarded by the opposition as efforts to undermine the checks and balances system and violate democratic norms.