On January 17, Friday, the upper house of the Polish parliament, Senate, rejected a controversial bill which calls for punishment for judges, who criticize the judicial reforms initiated by the ruling conservative government. The bill was rejected by a slender majority of three votes in the 100-seat house. In the division, 51 ‘NO’ votes against 48 ‘YES’ were recorded. However, even though the opposition-dominated Senate has voted down the bill, the government can still enact the legislation with the approval of the country’s president, as the bill was earlier ratified by the lower house dominated by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, in December of last year.
The conservative government in the country has been pushing its controversial judicial reform since 2015 in an attempt to subjugate the judiciary. The reforms have drawn widespread protests from civil society, leftist parties, and even from the European Union (EU). The reforms include lowering of the retirement age of the Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65, and allowing the Polish president to grant a five-year extension to judges deemed “worthy”.
Following the Senate vote on Friday, activist group Akcja Demokracja said that “the rejection of the bill by the Polish Senate is a success on the way to repair the rule of law in Poland. Now it’s time for the next steps, as we should continue our action to resist the ruling government from causing further destruction of the justice system.”
Earlier on December 18, massive mobilizations were carried out in over 160 locations in Poland against the government’s judicial reforms. The protests were organized under the leadership of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), the judiciary association “Iustitia Polska”, the Citizens Movement ORP, Akcja Demokracja, and opposition parties including the Polish left – Lewica, Razem, Wiosna.