The Parliament approved 15 out of 25 members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), which nominates judges, and the Supreme Court, which among other things, rules on the validity of elections.
The selection process was done under new, controversial rules, which basically gives the government the power to pick the KRS members, who were previously they chosen by fellow judges.
Only the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) MPs along with their colleagues from Kukiz’15 took part in the vote, as opposition parties boycotted it, calling the new laws “unconstitutional.”
The whole process was also criticized by other judiciary and human rights organizations which pointed out that the candidates hand-picked by the Justice Ministry in some instances had a number of formal complaints, reprimands in their files and did not work in top courts beforehand. For example, none of the candidates was a member of the Supreme Court. According to the organizations, the whole process is “not transparent and rushed.”
PiS argues that the reform was needed as the judiciary is still being haunted by the communist era.
The right-wing PiS government says the measure, like other reforms it has been making since coming to power in late 2015, is necessary to combat corruption and overhaul a judicial system still haunted by the communist era.
“The KRS had done nothing to purge its ranks of judges who were real murderers in robes who had sentenced Polish patriots to death. It was rooted in the communist era and led by people in good positions under the former communist regime, by elites during Stalinist trials in the 1950s,” Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said afterward.
After the vote, current KRS head Małgorzata Gersdorf resigned saying she doesn’t want to be in charge of an “unconstitutional organ.”
In December, the European Commission launched unprecedented disciplinary proceedings against Poland over the reforms calling for passing the Article 7. If it happened it would strip Poland of its voting rights in the EU. However to be implemented it needs to be approved by all member states unanimously, while Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has stated that he would veto any attempt to sanction Poland.