The rally was sparked by the decision of the ruling party’s lawmakers to give preliminary approval to two revised bills that would allow the justice minister to appoint judges, among other changes after the Polish president vetoed them in July.
Thousands of Poles concerned about the direction of judicial and electoral changes took to the streets of Warsaw on Friday to protest what is widely perceived as the government’s drive to expand its powers.
Demonstrators rallied outside the presidential palace in the capital, a Sputnik correspondent said. They chanted “free courts, free elections, free Poland.”
Some protesters were seen walking around with what resembled ballot boxes, collecting notes from people unhappy with reforms, which they promised to hand over to the president’s office.
In July, the Polish parliament adopted two controversial bills on judiciary reform. One of them empowers the parliament to appoint members of the National Council of Judiciary. Another bill expands the powers of the justice minister, enabling the official to appoint or dismiss chief judges of ordinary courts.
In addition, the Polish legislation undermines the courts’ independence by giving the minister of justice the discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, to dismiss and appoint court presidents and thus exert influence on individual judges.