Poland President Andrzej Duda vetoes judiciary reform

Poland President Andrzej Duda vetoes judiciary reform

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Poland's President Andrzej Duda has announced he will veto two contentious bills that are widely seen as assaults on the independence of the judicial system and are part of a planned legal overhaul by the ruling party that has sparked days of nationwide protests.

In announcing his decision on Monday, Duda broke openly for the first time with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS).

Duda is closely aligned with the party and has supported its agenda since taking office in 2015.
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"I have decided that I will send back to Sejm [lower house of parliament], which means I will veto the bill, on the Supreme Court, as well as the one about the National Council of the Judiciary," Duda said after days of mass street protests.

Duda was hand-picked by Kaczynski as the party's presidential candidate in 2015 and has loyally supported the party's conservative nationalist agenda, not vetoing any of its laws until now.

His step won the praise of members of the political opposition who had been urging him to veto the bills.
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Al Jazeera's Sonia Gallego, reporting from Warsaw, said the decision is seen as an enormous victory in the country. 

"The announcement comes as a surprise because many people were anticipating that the president might not take this decision as he was a former member of the PiS and seen by many to be sympathetic to the party as well," she said.

"Critics are saying the president himself was feeling uneasy with the direction the party was going in and that he had issues particularly about the Supreme Court being under the jurisdictions of the Ministry of Justice.
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"It was something that was not only criticised by the people of Poland but also the EU and the US state department as it has been seen as a power grab by the Law and Justice Party in order to get their influence as far and wide as possible in the country."

Thousands of protesters had taken to the streets across Poland in recent days to oppose the bill, including huge crowds who held a candle-lit protest outside the Supreme Court on Sunday night urging Duda to veto the changes.

The European Commission had threatened to halt Poland's voting rights over the proposed reforms - a so-called "nuclear option" that the EU had never invoked - while the US had also expressed concern.
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The PiS, which began making changes to the judiciary after coming to power in late 2015, has argued resistance to the initiatives is a case of the elite defending their privileges.
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