By Lidia Kelly and Pawel Sobczak WARSAW, Jan 11 : Poland’s opposition Civic Platform proposed to delay parliament’s return from its winter break today by a week to allow time for talks aimed at ending a sit-in by opposition lawmakers protesting a vote on the 2017 budget.
Senior parliament officials convened an emergency meeting, but ruling party officials insisted that the opposition parliamentarians leave the plenary hall where the sit-in was taking place.
The crisis started in mid-December when moves by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to curb the number of journalists in parliament and their right to record proceedings prompted opposition lawmakers to start the sit-in.
That led the PiS to move a 2017 budget vote to an auxiliary chamber of parliament in December, prompting the opposition to accuse it of voting on it illegally.
Rejecting PiS appeals, the Civic Platform said yesterday it would stick to its blockade if the PiS tried to relaunch parliament on Wednesday.
PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna had said his party would occupy “any room in which (the PiS) will try to organise proceedings”, after rejecting an offer from PiS counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski to try to find a compromise.
On Wednesday, Schetyna proposed delaying resumption of parliament’s proceedings until Jan. 18 to allow time to resolve the standoff.
Kaczynski’s eurosceptic party enjoys strong, steady support of around a third of Poles despite critics’ accusation that PiS policies are undermining democratic checks and balances and tilting the formerly communist state towards authoritarian rule.
In December, the European Commission have Poland two months to address what it called a “a systemic threat to the rule of law” in Poland.
But critics say the opposition risks weakening its position as it has failed to take a joint approach to the crisis and lacks a coherent plan to defuse it.
Kaczynski has warned that “decisions” might be taken if parliament could not reconvene. “We are operating from the position that the session will take place,” he told journalists yesterday. “And we will do everything to ensure that even if there are problems.” He would not elaborate on what decisions the eurosceptic PiS, which holds a majority in parliament, would take.
On Monday, the PiS announced it would reinstate full media access to parliament to try to defuse the standoff, but a wary Civic Platform (PO) said it was not yet ready to call off its blockade.
On Tuesday, Kaczynski said PiS MPs would consider some of the budget amendments proposed by the opposition – but not conduct a rerun of the budget vote as demanded by the PO.
The PO reiterated its condition for lifting its blockade, saying the December vote was illegal because the PiS lacked the required quorum of lawmakers.