Poland's ex-leaders say new govt is demolishing democracy

AP News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2016 7:41 AM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Three former Polish presidents and other prominent former leaders are accusing the right-wing government of demolishing the country's democracy and its international standing. They are also urging lawmakers and other politicians to disregard what they call the "draconian" new legislation the government is proposing.

The appeal Monday on the front page of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily added to the current political conflict in Poland. It was signed by former presidents Lech Walesa, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Bronislaw Komorowski, as well as former Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and six others, representing a wide political spectrum.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo reacted by saying that victorious fall elections have given her government the mandate to introduce sweeping reforms.

The appeal shows that "these people do not want to accept the free choice that the Poles have made," Szydlo said.

The authors of the appeal said the ruling Law and Justice party "has no intention of abandoning this path of demolishing the constitutional order" that is "paralyzing the work of the Constitutional Tribunal and all of the judicial authorities."

The tribunal, a top court that has the power to block new legislation if it is not in line with the Constitution, is at the heart of a heated conflict that is also debated by European Union leaders.

The ruling party that controls the government, the presidency and the parliament, has changed the rules by which new members are appointed to the court. It wants to have influence over the court while making sweeping changes to the nation's legislation, state-owned companies and budget.

It asked all Poles to follow the constitution in "daily work and activity" and that all ruling party politicians attached to state and democratic values should "refuse participation in their destruction."

"An attempt by the Law and Justice to create its own (legislative) order represents an usurpation of power," the authors said.

Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Glinski responded by saying it's "absurd" to suggest that Poland's democracy is threatened.