Several thousand protesters took to the streets in Warsaw on Saturday to defend the independence of the judiciary, which the observers say is undermined by the reforms of the conservative government, and to protest against plans to restrict the right to abortion.
Many participants waved the flag of the European Union during the “march for freedom.” The reorganisation of the judiciary initiated by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) has been strongly criticised by Brussels.
Last December, the European Commission invoked, for the first time in its history, Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty due to what it sees as a violation of the rule of law in Poland posed by controversial reforms. The punitive measure could theoretically lead to a suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the European Council.
Anxious to put an end to this procedure, which has damaged Poland’s international image, the government has offered some concessions.
Brussels and the Polish opposition accuse the PiS of undermining democratic values by calling into question the independence of the judiciary. The government defends itself by saying that it wants to make the courts more efficient.
Saturday’s demonstration comes at a delicate time for the opponents of the PiS. Ryszard Petru, the founder of the of the small party Nowoczesna, a partner of the main opposition Civic Platform (PO), recently quit the party saying he has lost control over its direction, as have an number of its MPs since the party won 7.6 percent in the 2016 elections.
The upheaval in the party threatens the unity of opposition bloc before the upcoming municipal and regional elections next autumn.
In a recent survey published by the Pollster Institute, the PiS was credited with 43% positive opinions, against 20% for OP and 6% for Nowoczesna.
Shaken by a controversy over the awarding of financial rewards to government ministers, with the backing of the PiS, the Conservative party fell behind the opposition bloc in popularity last month with 29 percent support against 32 percent support for the opposition.