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article imagePolish cardinal backs separation of powers amid court reforms

By AFP     Sep 28, 2017 in Politics

The archbishop of Warsaw on Thursday said he was praying for Poland's separation of powers to remain in place, as the government stands accused of seeking to control the judiciary in the devout Catholic country.

Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz's statement marks a departure from the powerful Polish Roman Catholic Church's generally favourable stance towards the Law and Justice (PiS) party in power.

Nycz spoke of the reforms, which have also drawn concern and threats of unprecedented sanctions from the European Commission, while celebrating a special mass in honour of the centennial this month of Poland's Supreme Court.

"No one suspected that the 100-year-old institution would find itself in this kind of situation of great concern for itself and people, as well as for its future," Nycz said.

He said he was praying "for nothing bad to happen, for the foundations of what we call the separation of powers and service to the state and people to remain unshaken."

PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and President Andrzej Duda are all practicing Catholics who regularly take part in solemn masses during official events.

PiS also benefited from the support of a significant portion of the clergy during the party's rise to power in 2015.

Since then, the conservatives have introduced judicial reforms meant to enable the legislative and executive branches of government to play an important role in naming judges and the workings of the judicial system.

PiS considers the reforms indispensable to combatting corruption and streamlining the judicial system, while the opposition believes the party is seeking to reduce the independence of the courts.

There have even been differences of opinion between the PiS and Duda, who is a close ally and was a member until his election as president.

In July, Duda vetoed two out of three controversial judicial bills introduced by PiS following mass street protests and concern from the European Union over the rule of law.

On Tuesday, Duda sent over his own versions of the bills to parliament, with one concerning the Supreme Court and the other the court watchdog KRS that is designed to protect the independence of the courts.

His proposals are less radical than those introduced by the government and reinforce the powers of the president to the detriment of the justice minister.

However Duda's proposals still reserve an important role for the executive, which goes against the constitution according to the opposition.

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