WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Thousands of Poles rallied Saturday in Warsaw to show their support for the country’s right-wing government as it brings to completion an almost total overhaul of the justice system to put it under government control.
Those who rallied in front of the Constitutional Tribunal described the legislative changes as a matter of national sovereignty. They urged the government not to back down in its stand-off with the European Union, which has sharply criticized the judicial overhaul.
The rally came four days after President Andrzej Duda, who is aligned with the ruling party, signed into law much-criticized legislation that gives politicians the power to fine and fire judges whose actions and decisions they consider harmful.
It also comes as Poland braces for possible retribution from the 27-member European bloc. Citing unnamed European officials, the daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported Saturday that Poland could possibly soon face fines of 2 million euros per day if it does not reverse that legislation.
That law comes after more than four years of changes to the judicial system by the ruling Law and Justice party.
The EU and many Polish judges say the changes violate the separation of powers essential in a democracy.
The pro-government rally included speakers who described the new legislation as necessary to clean up what they denounced as a corrupt “caste” of judges working since the communist era.
Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski sent a letter to a different political gathering that recalled how his party won national elections in 2015 and again in 2019 on promises to reform the judiciary, claiming a “strong mandate to act.”
“There cannot be talk of a just Poland without a proper functioning of the justice system,” Kaczynski said. “We will continue to reform the judicial system because that is what the republic needs.”