A disputed parliament vote adds to Poland's political chaos

AP News
Posted: Apr 14, 2016 10:09 AM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Lawmakers from Poland's ruling party on Thursday added to a political crisis surrounding the constitutional court by voting in a new member to join the already overpopulated tribunal.

Against recommendations from European Union bodies to make no new appointments to the Constitutional Tribunal, the conservative ruling Law and Justice party chose a candidate for a place that will be vacated later this month, as it tries to gain influence on the court.

Having a majority in the parliament, its lawmakers voted in Zbigniew Jedrzejewski, a professor of law, with the support of a few lawmakers from the right-wing Kukiz'15 party.

But the parliamentary vote was itself confused and contested, with the opposition parties Civic Platform and PSL calling it flawed and demanding a repeat vote.

Opposition leaders complained that a lawmaker with Kukiz'15 violated regulations by voting for the new judge both in her own right and on behalf of an absent colleague, with his consent.

As a result, the lawmaker was stripped of her membership in her party's parliamentary group, while the colleague in whose name she voted resigned his membership.

There were no plans to repeat the vote.

Poland is under criticism from the EU, which says the government's policies relating to the tribunal threaten democracy and the rule of law. The court is key to implementing new legislation because it can block bills which it finds to be against the constitution.

The Venice Commission, a body of European experts on constitutional law and a human rights watchdog, has criticized the government and appealed to Poland's parliament to find a solution to the stalemate.

The government's efforts to put loyal judges on the panel, now dominated by the opposition, have led to too many appointments and contributed to the court's paralysis.