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Governing party addresses Polish parliamentary crisis

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The head of Poland’s ruling party has offered what he called an “outstretched hand” to the opposition amid a political crisis, but warned that MPs staging a sit-in protest were engaging in “criminal” behaviour. Kaczyński addressed a press conference in Warsaw on Wednesday together with top members of his ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, including Prime Minister Beata Szydło and speaker of the lower house of parliament Marek Kuchciński.

Kaczyński said that his party is willing to hold discussions with the opposition if they allow parliament to “return to normal”.

He said that the MPs, who have been staging a sit-in protest in the lower house of parliament since Friday, are engaging in “criminal” behaviour by occupying the plenary hall.

“We are still ready, after the situation calms down, and parliament returns to normal, to take steps […] which would result in the creation of a system similar to that which exists in some European countries,” he added.

Repeating proposals made during a recent interview, Kaczyński said that the head of the Polish opposition should be given more rights within parliament, as well as certain privileges.

Christmas protest

Following Wednesday’s press conference, representatives of the Civic Platform (PO) and Nowoczesna parties said that they would not be calling off their protest, and expect to still be occupying parliament over the upcoming Christmas holidays.

MPs from opposition parties are demanding a key vote on next year’s budget to be repeated.

Matters came to a head when opposition MP Michał Szczerba raised the issue of new media rules during a parliamentary debate on Friday. The Speaker of the lower house, Marek Kuchciński, excluded him from debate and took away his voting rights.

Opposition MPs then stormed the rostrum, blocking proceedings.

Following several hours of recess, deputies from the ruling Law and Justice party convened in an ancillary hall and passed next year’s budget. Opposition MPs have said that the vote, carried out by a raising of hands, was illegal, and should be repeated.

‘All measures were taken’

But during Wednesday’s press conference, Kuchciński reiterated that the vote was in line with regulations, and that “all measures were taken” to inform all MPs to participate in a vote that was taking place in another room.

He added that the press had access to the proceedings and could film from the end of the room.

However, both journalists and oppositionists have disputed these claims, saying that parliamentary security guards kept people from entering while the vote was taking place.

The head of the Nowoczesna party, Ryszard Petru, told journalists after the conference that if the budget, which he described as a “cornerstone bill”, is not legally accepted by parliament, it would have serious legal repercussions in the future.

PiS ‘retains arrogance’

Michał Szczerba, the PO MP who started the commotion on Friday took to Twitter to comment on the proposals by PiS leader Kaczyński to give the opposition leader more privileges. “Thank you, we do not engage in political corruption,” Szczerba wrote.

Nowoczesna’s Petru said that the PiS leader should not tell the opposition what to do. “We can take care of ourselves,” he said.

Former Prime Minister and current PO MP Ewa Kopacz said that in the press conference “Kaczyński confused two words that start with ‘D’: ‘Democracy’ and ‘Dictatorship’.”

She added that “speaking in a calm voice [the PiS leadership] retained their arrogance.”


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