Poland's ruling party tries to solve conflict with new law

Poland's ruling party tries to solve conflict with new law

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's ruling party on Thursday proposed new legislation concerning the Constitutional Tribunal that, it says, should calm the political storm surrounding the special court.

The conflict between the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party and the pro-EU opposition over control of the court has led to peaceful street demonstrations by both sides and has provoked concerned comments from some leaders in the EU. The opposition, which controls the constitutional court, accuses the government of undermining Poland's democracy. More demonstrations by government opponents are planned on Saturday.

Law and Justice's proposal increases the number of judges needed to make key rulings, requires a two-thirds majority for its rulings instead of the current simple majority, transfers the power to swear in judges from the president to the parliament speaker and moves its headquarters out of Warsaw, which is supposed to free it from political pressure.

Despite vehement opposition protests, the parliament and the president — both controlled by the ruling party — are expected to adopt the legislation eventually.

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski believes that without influence in the 15-member tribunal he will not be able to implement the sweeping social and political reforms he has promised. The tribunal has the power to put a check on new legislation. Currently most of its judges were appointed by the previous ruling team, now in the opposition. Law and Justice's attempts to place its own five choices there, and the opposition's resistance, led to a constitutional crisis in the country.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo was to meet European Parliament head Martin Schulz in Brussels on Thursday. She has said she wants Schulz to apologize for having said that the developments in Poland have a "coup d'etat" character.

The European Parliament is to debate the situation on Jan. 19, a move that is criticized in Poland as unnecessary.

"There are no grounds for this debate or for saying that democracy in Poland is threatened," said Tomasz Poreba, a member of the EU parliament for the ruling party.

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