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Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydlo arrives at the Council of the European Union on the first day of an EU summit, on March 9, 2017 in Brussels.
In Warsaw, a noisy crowd gathered before the parliament building, chanting “we will defend democracy” and other slogans against ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Poland’s most powerful politician, whom they called a “dictator.”
“We, the citizens, are defending the rule of law, we are on the side of the law,” said one of the protest leaders, Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, a top pro-democracy activist in the 1980s.
The main opposition party’s leader and a former foreign minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, warned that the ruling party may use the new regulations to manipulate electoral returns. Crowds also gathered in Krakow, Szczecin, Poznan and elsewhere.
The ruling party has already put loyalists on another top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, a move that has drawn condemnation from European Union leaders.
Kaczynski, a lawyer, insists Poland’s judiciary system is a continuation of the communist-era one. He says the court system is inefficient and needs “radical changes” and new people.
Many experts and judges agree that the justice system and especially courts need reforms that would speed up the handling of cases, but say Law and Justice proposals are going in the wrong direction.
Poland is still a young democracy, after it shed communist rule in 1989 and joined the EU in 2004.