Polish PM: Protests being led by politicians who lost power

AP News
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Posted: Dec 20, 2015 10:33 AM
Polish PM: Protests being led by politicians who lost power

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Anti-government protesters who have held rallies in Poland over the past two weekends faced dual accusations aimed at discrediting them Sunday. The prime minister said they are the work of opposition members angry about losing power and privileges, while the leader of a different right-wing party said they were financed by a "Jewish banker."

Those accusations come amid a deepening political crisis brewing in Poland since the right-wing Law and Justice took power in mid-November. Protest organizers deny both claims and decried the use of "anti-Semitic" language that they said is being used as a political tool.

Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated across Poland on the last two Saturdays to protest moves by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo's government to reduce the ability of the constitutional court to be a check on the government's power. Protesters are calling those actions a threat to Poland's democracy.

In an interview with TVN24, Szydlo denied that Poland's 26-year-old democracy was under threat.

"I would like those who demonstrate to think through if the slogans which they voice — that is, about the protection of democracy and freedom — match the reality that we are all living in," Szydlo said.

"Those organizing the protests are those who lost power, privileges and influence," Szydlo said. "Politicians are marching at the head" of the protests.

Several opposition lawmakers did indeed take part but the organizer of the rallies, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, insists it is a citizens' initiative that doesn't work for any political party.

Pawel Kukiz, the leader of a right-wing group in parliament, also accused the Committee for Defense of Democracy on Sunday of being funded by a "Jewish banker" during a radio interview. When pressed on who that was, he said it was George Soros, the Hungarian-born American business magnate and philanthropist.

Hanna Szulczewska, a spokeswoman for the pro-democracy committee, said that wasn't true and called it an "anti-Semitic argument being used as a political tool."

She said the initiative is brand new and has no sponsors yet. People who have joined the protests have produced their own placards, she said.