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February 21, 2024

Political Crisis Deepens As Polish President Vetoes Dismissal Of Top Prosecutor

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Jan 16, 2024

Poland is facing a deepening political crisis as President Andrzej Duda has vetoed the dismissal of one of the country’s top prosecutors appointed under the previous government. This sets up a confrontation with new Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who has vowed to overhaul the judiciary as part of his reform agenda.

President Refuses To Sign Off On Firing State Prosecutor

On Sunday, President Duda refused to sign off on the firing of State Prosecutor Dariusz Barski, who had been appointed to a six-year term under the former nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS) government. Prime Minister Tusk sees Barski as an obstacle to his plans to reshape the judiciary and sent a request to the president last week to dismiss him.

However, Duda argued there were no legal grounds for Barski’s removal and that it would violate the constitution. This has led to a stand-off between the president and prime minister, who have been unable to resolve their differences despite holding talks.

Key Players:

- President Andrzej Duda: Vetoed firing of prosecutor Barski, opposes judicial overhaul 

- Prime Minister Donald Tusk: Seeks major reform of judiciary, wants Barski removed

- State Prosecutor Dariusz Barski: Top prosecutor appointed under previous PiS government  

Tusk was elected prime minister in late 2023 after his Civic Platform party won parliamentary elections, ousting PiS from power. He campaigned on a platform of democratic renewal and normalization of relations with the European Union.

However, Tusk requires cooperation from President Duda, an ally of PiS, to implement sensitive institutional changes. Their divisions could paralysis policymaking and governance in Poland.

Court Also Blocks Barski’s Dismissal As Legal Challenge Mounted

In a further obstacle to the government’s plans, the Supreme Administrative Court has stalled Barski’s firing as he mounts a legal challenge. Judges ruled that Barski can remain in his position until the legal basis for his removal has been reviewed.

Barski argues that his six-year tenure grants him independence and that political motives are behind the move to dismiss him. The court’s decision has thus been a setback for Prime Minister Tusk.

The judicial stand-off has raised concerns over respect for the rule of law in Poland. Tusk has accused Duda of violating the constitution himself by refusing to approve Barski’s dismissal. However, the president has stood firm, demanding the government stops attempting to transgress legal boundaries.

Wider Judiciary Overhaul Fuels Tensions Between Duda and Tusk

The Barski case forms part of a wider effort from Tusk to overhaul the influential judiciary, which remains dominated by judges appointed under PiS rule. The new government plans changes to how judges are nominated in order to dilute political influence over the courts.

However, President Duda claims the proposed reforms themselves politicize the judiciary by giving more control to parliament. Last week, he told Tusk: “Please stop trying to violate the law.”

Despite talks between the two leaders, they have found no compromise on judicial changes or Barski’s position. The president wields a veto that enables him to obstruct government policies.

This risks hampering Tusk’s reform momentum. Poland faces the suspension of billions in EU funding if it does not reform its judiciary to Brussels’ satisfaction. However, while Tusk wants to unlock the stalled funds, Duda does not back down from defending judges he sees as legitimate.

Opposition Party Attacks Government Over Chaos

Poland’s main opposition party PiS has lambasted Tusk’s administration over the political turmoil, barely a month after it assumed office. Leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski accused the government of conducting a “political war” against Duda and said its rushed actions threatened Poland’s sovereignty.

With the president able to veto legislation, PiS hopes to stymie Tusk’s ability to govern. By portraying him as destabilizing the country through clashes with Duda, PiS seeks to undermine support for the new government.

Upcoming elections in 2025 give PiS an incentive to weaken Tusk ahead of the vote. Some analysts warn Poland faces permanent gridlock if the feud between Duda and Tusk is not resolved.

What Happens Next?

In the short term, attention turns to whether Prime Minister Tusk will nominate a different candidate for prosecutor-general to replace Barski. This could potentially be more acceptable to President Duda.

Yet the wider battle over reforming the judiciary may be more enduring, unless a compromise can be forged. Poland risks becoming a blocking minority in EU decisions unless judicial changes satisfy Brussels.

With Duda able to obstruct government policies, some experts predict Tusk might resort to referendum questions to the public over legal reforms. This could strengthen his hand by demonstrating popular support.

Poland’s next parliamentary and presidential elections are not until 2025. However, if the discord between Tusk and Duda proves terminal, snap polls could ensue. This would likely favor the PiS opposition.

For now, Poland faces an uncertain period of tension between its president and government. Their cooperation is vital for political stability – yet neither currently shows signs of backing down over judicial reforms.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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