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Polish president meets opposition leaders amid crisis


President Andrzej Duda met the four leaders of opposition parties in Poland on Sunday in an attempt to resolve a parliamentary crisis which has led to three days of nationwide protests. Update: This story has been updated with quotes from Civic Platform (PO) leader Grzegorz Schetyna, following his meeting with President Duda.

Presidential spokesman Marek Magierowski was quoted by the IAR news agency as saying that Andrzej Duda “wants to stop the escalation of the dispute in parliament and appeal to all parties to return to conducting normal dialogue”.

Speaking to journalists following a meeting on Sunday, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, the head of the Polish People’s Party (PSL), said that he suggested a repeat of Friday’s sitting of the lower house and of the vote on the 2017 budget.

Tensions between opposition and government MPs came to a head when the parliamentary Speaker excluded from debate an opposition deputy who had raised the issue of new media rules during a debate on Friday.

As a result, opposition MPs stormed the rostrum, bringing the debate to a close. Following several hours of recess, deputies from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) 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.

As of Sunday, the official site of the Polish parliament had not yet published the result of the vote, a step which is usually almost immediate.

Following the commotion, several dozen opposition MPs started a sit-in protest in the plenary hall. The protest is ongoing.

They initially announced the protest would last until Tuesday, but a deputy for the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, Kinga Gajewska, in the hall since Friday, tweeted that they will not leave until a “legal” vote on the budget is held.

But PiS spokeswoman Beata Mazurek was quoted by the PAP news agency as saying that there is “no legal basis to repeat either the parliamentary sitting or the vote”.

Meanwhile, President Duda also spoke with Ryszard Petru, the head of the opposition Nowoczesna party. Petru was quoted as saying that he had “the impression that Duda understands our demands, but we must remember that [above all] parliament must be in agreement”.

Duda also spoke to Paweł Kukiz, the head of the anti-establishment Kukiz’15 movement, which has a history of voting similarly to the governing PiS on many key issues. MPs from the Kukiz’15 grouping were among the few from the opposition to be allowed into Friday’s vote, the opposition has said, and no Kukiz’15 deputy is participating in the sit-in protest in parliament.

Following the meeting with the president, Kukiz said: “I would like to once again appeal to people not to give in to manipulation”.

The sentiment echoed conservative voices in Poland, who have said that opposition politicians, as well as the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) movement, which has organised protests around the country, are causing unrest in Polish society.

Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński has called on party loyalists not to “allow themselves to be provoked”.

“We will not allow Polish democracy to be destroyed […] We will not concede, [because] we have a social mandate”, Gliński said.

Exiting the meeting with President Duda after 9:00 pm, PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna said that he told Duda that he is “ready to meet Jarosław Kaczyński” and hopes the president will get involved in finding a solution to the crisis.

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