The Latest: Polish PM criticizes president for bill vetoes

The Latest: Polish PM criticizes president for bill vetoes

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on Poland's president vetoing bills that would have given politicians influence over the Supreme Court (all times local):

9:20 p.m.

Poland's prime minister says President Andrzej Duda has delayed much-needed judicial reforms with his decision to veto two bills introduced by the governing party.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said in a televised address Monday night that the country's courts need reform because they are not working well and that previous governments have been unwilling to tackle the problem.

Szydlo said that even if the pace of reform has been slowed, "we will not back down from the path of repairing the state."

Her remarks seemed to expose a rift that the president's decision created between him and the ruling Law and Justice party. Duda ran on the party's ticket when he won the presidency in 2015 and the party has counted on his loyalty in promoting its policies.

Duda said the proposed changes did not guarantee improvements but gave politicians too much power over the judiciary. He said he will propose new drafts in about two months.


8:40 p.m.

Poles are still protesting proposed changes to the laws governing their country's judiciary even though the president said he would veto most of a controversial package of legislation seen as a threat to the independence of judges.

In a surprise move after days of large nationwide protests, President Andrzej Duda announced Monday he would veto the two most contentious of the three reorganization bills.

The changes would have put the justice system under the political control of Poland's ruling party. The European Union and many Poles see it as an attack on the democratic system of checks and balances in the young democracy.

Protesters praised Duda for the two vetoes, but gathered in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw to keep up the pressure on him to also veto the third bill, which they call unconstitutional.

They unfurled a huge Polish flag and sang the national anthem.


6:45 p.m.

A Spokesman for Poland's President Andrzej Duda says that he has not changed his decision to reject contentious legislation on the judiciary, after meeting with the prime minster and parliament speakers.

The Monday meeting was held hours after Duda said he would veto legislation that would have given politicians influence over the Supreme Court and over a top judicial body.

It was believed the ruling party politicians were trying to sway the decision Duda announced earlier in the day. The legislation he said he would veto is key for the changes the party aims to introduce in Poland.

Spokesman Krzysztof Lapinski said on TVN24 that the president's decision was "unmovable."

He said the president was not "deaf and blind" to the nationwide protests, and that his decision was based on deep analysis of the facts and on consultations.


4:30 p.m.

Poland's prime minister and parliament speakers have arrived at a presidential residence in Warsaw for a meeting with President Andrzej Duda following his surprise decision Monday to veto legislation key to the government's reorganization of the judiciary.

The ruling Law and Justice party had held a meeting behind closed doors immediately after Duda's announcement.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Ryszard Terlecki said afterward they hoped the president "can still change his mind."

Duda had not yet signed the veto at the time when Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and speakers of both chambers of parliament arrived for the meeting in the afternoon, his press office said.


3:30 p.m.

Top members of Poland's ruling party say they are "surprised" and "disappointed" by President Andrzej Duda's decision to veto two bills that the party has considered crucial to its policies but which were seen as damaging judicial independence.

Duda, who hails from the party and on whose loyalty the party had counted, said Monday he was rejecting a bill on the Supreme Court and another one on a top judicial body.

Shortly after, some government members and party figures arrived somber-faced at the office of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the party's leader and policymaker.

Kaczynski told reporters he had "no comment" as he arrived.

Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki , who is also the economy, finance and development minister, said he was "surprised" and "disappointed."

The same words came from Deputy Parliament Speaker Ryszard Terlecki as he left the meeting, held behind closed doors. A large group of protesters chanted "shame" as the men left.


2:20 p.m.

A spokesman for the European Union's executive says that European commissioners will discuss at their regular meeting on Wednesday their reaction to Poland's contentious bills that are seen as an assault on judicial independence and the announcement by the country's president that he will veto two of them.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas on Monday had no immediate reaction to the announcement by President Andrzej Duda that he will veto the bills, which have sparked widespread protests in Poland but have been approved by lawmakers.

Schinas says that "all events that are unfolding will be discussed globally by the college on Wednesday also in the spirit and within the context of the statement we issued last week."

Last week, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans warned that Poland could face a proceeding under Article 7 of the EU treaty, which makes possible sanctions in case of a "serious and persistent" breach of the EU's basic values. In theory, Poland could be deprived of its vote in the EU's council of governments, but such a move would have to be unanimously approved by member states.


1 p.m.

The head of Poland's Supreme Court — the focal point of a legislative battle — says she has thanked President Andrzej Duda for his decision to reject contentious legislation seen as a threat to judicial independence.

Malgorzata Gersdorf met with Duda shortly after he announced his decision to veto bills on the Supreme Court and a top judicial body. Under the legislation that was to reorganize the court's work, all of its current judges were to be dismissed, except for those chosen by the justice minister and approved by the president.

Gersdorf said she has thanked Duda for his veto and that the meeting was in a "very friendly atmosphere."

She vowed "intellectual" support for Duda, who has said he will propose new, improved legislation but will first hold wide consultations with experts.


10:30 a.m.

Poland's democracy icon and former president, Lech Walesa, says it was a "difficult and a courageous decision" for President Andrzej Duda to decide to reject two controversial bills seen as an assault on judicial independence.

The bills were crucial to the wide restructuring of the judicial system that the ruling populist Law and Justice is pursuing. With his decision Duda has defied the party that he has so far been aligned with.

Walesa said Monday that Duda "begins to feel like a president."

He called on the people to continue their days-long massive protests and make Duda also reject a third bill in the package on changes to the judiciary.

"We will either make them turn back or we will bring about a change," Walesa said referring to the ruling party.

Walesa said he was encouraged to see many young people take part in the protests that made Duda veto the contentious legislation.


10:00 a.m.

Poland's president says he will veto two contentious bills that are widely seen as assaults on the independence of the judicial system and are part of a planned legal overhaul by the ruling party that has sparked days of nationwide protests.

In announcing his decision Monday, Andrzej Duda broke openly for the first time with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party. Duda is closely aligned with the party and has supported its agenda since taking office in 2015.

Duda said he would veto two of three bills recently passed by lawmakers. One would have put the Supreme Court under the political control of the ruling party, giving the justice minister, who is also prosecutor general, power to appoint judges.

Duda said a prosecutor general should not have such powers.

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