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Polish Lawmakers Advance Legislation Giving Parliament More Power Over Courts


Poland's most powerful politician, ruling Law and Justice Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, center, attends a vote in parliament in Warsaw, Dec. 8, 2017, in which lawmakers approved legislation that gives them control over the Supreme Court. The opposition and the European Union leaders say the legislation threatens the rule of law.

Poland's lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved legislation that gives lawmakers more control over the selection of judges, in defiance of warnings from the European Union.

The new legislation allows lawmakers to choose members of the National Judiciary Council, which appoints judges. It also lowers the retirement age for Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65 and would force out a significant number of current judges.

The ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) says the aim of the new legislation is to cut down on corruption and make judges more accountable to citizens.

However, opponents say the ruling party is trying to increase its hold on power and is infringing on the country's separation of powers. Opposition lawmakers chanted "dictatorship" before and after the votes were read Friday in the lower house of parliament.

The European Union has threatened legal action over the reforms, saying they will threaten the impartiality of Poland's courts.

The legislation must still be approved by Poland's Senate and signed by the president before becoming law.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, left, formally designates Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for the prime minister's post, in Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 8, 2017.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, left, formally designates Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for the prime minister's post, in Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 8, 2017.

Friday's approval of the bill came a day after PiS fired its prime minister and replaced her with Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a loyalist of party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The European Union is already at odds with Poland on a number of issues, including immigration.

On Thursday, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, announced it would sue Poland, as well as Hungary and the Czech Republic, for refusing to accept mandatory quotas of asylum-seekers.

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