Anti-govt protesters march in Polish cities

The bill proposed by the populist ruling party only needs the signature of President Andrzej Duda to become binding.

The opposition warned that the Senate's decision, which followed a stormy debate in both houses of parliament, undermined judicial independence and accused Poland's ruling conservatives of trying to stack courts with its own candidates.

Opposition senators began to shout "Free courts!" after the legislation passed in a 55-23 vote with two abstentions in the upper house at 1:57am on Saturday after a turbulent, more than 15-hour debate.

Earlier Thursday, a small group of protesters kicked metal barriers that separated them from the parliament, chanting "Shame!" to express their anger at the lawmakers.

Critics say the law kills judicial independence and threatens the rule of law.

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The changes were backed by the Law and Justice party, also known as as PiS.

Szydlo insisted the government will not bow to pressure "from Polish or from foreign defenders of the interest of the elites".

As the senate appeared ready to pass a law giving the ruling party the right to dismiss the entire Supreme Court, a survey by Warsaw-based research institution Ibris showed that 37% of Poles continue to back the party, a 16 point lead over.

It calls for replacing all Supreme Court judges except those elected by a judicial panel that is to be chosen by the parliament. It also introduces a disciplinary chamber that, on a motion from the justice minister, would handle suspected breaches of regulations or ethics.

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The Supreme Court has, among other powers, jurisdiction over the validity of elections. About 200 protesters also gathered in front of Duda's vacation home in Jurata, on the Baltic coast, to demand that he doesn't sign the bill.

The Polish Parliament moved this week to expand political control of the judiciary, threatening a showdown with the European Union over legislation that Brussels has condemned as an assault on democracy and the rule of law. He is expected to sign the legislation.

Tusk repeated his readiness for talks and said he was a "little disappointed" there has been no meeting.

In Trump's troubling and odd speech in Poland two weeks ago, the US president said he was honored "to address the Polish nation that so many generations have dreamed of: a Poland that is safe, strong, and free".

But the Czech judges said the bill was an attack on the Polish judiciary's independence.

This in turn could lead to Poland losing its voting rights in various European Union institutions.

But he conceded that, during his seven years as Poland's prime minister, he did encounter some resistance against judicial reform.

"We urge all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland's constitution or worldwide legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers", it said in a statement.

Thursday's vote came a day after the European Union gave its largest formerly communist member state a week to shelve judicial reforms that Brussels said would put courts under direct government control.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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