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Protest broken up outside Poland's parliament


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Protest broken up outside Poland's parliament



Police have forcibly broken up a demonstration that had blocked the exits from the Polish parliament.

Warsaw police spokesperson Mariusz Mrozek denied the use of tear gas.

However, he confirmed physical force was used to remove protesters.

Mrozek said the gathering before the parliament was declared illegal starting from midnight.

Many protesters had left by the early hours, but some remained.

Several opposition lawmakers said they would spend the night in parliament.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party (PIS), left parliament in the early hours of Saturday after the protesters were removed.



What was it about?



Protesters say the governing lawmakers have violated the constitution by illegally passing the budget for next year.

Polish opposition parties accused the governing Law and Justice Party (PIS) of violating the constitution after speaker Marek Kuchcinski moved a key vote on next year’s budget outside the main chamber.

He also blocked the media from recording the vote.



Standoff



The budget vote sparked the biggest political standoff in years in Poland, an EU member.

It is the first time since Poland’s transition from communism in 1989 that a sitting of the lower chamber of parliament and a budget vote were held outside the main chamber.

The escalation of conflict between the opposition and the governing Law and Justice party is the sharpest since it came to power in October 2015.



An illegal vote?



The opposition say the budget vote was illegal as it was impossible to confirm that the required number of lawmakers was present.

“There is no proof that a quorum of lawmakers was present. We suspect that people who were not allowed to vote took part,” said leader of the opposition Nowoczesna party, Ryszard Petru.

Before leaving parliament, the leader of the governing PIS party Jaroslaw Kacynski insisted the vote was legal and involved the required number of MPs.

“What the opposition did was a scandal. And we were working,” said PIS lawmaker Jaroslaw Zielinski.




Media access



Direct access for media to the chamber was denied.

Reporters were only able to observe proceedings via an official camera feed.

Earlier this week, the PIS had announced a plan to curb media access to the parliament.

This spurred widespread protests by non-state media and the opposition, fuelled by concerns the centre-right government is intent on curtailing press freedom.



Law and Justice



Since coming to power, the PIS has passed laws making it more difficult for the country’s constitutional court to pass rulings.

This has prompted the European Commission to say democracy and the rule of law were threatened in Poland.

The PIS has also tightened control over public news media and state prosecutions.

The party has approved legislation that human rights groups say would curtail freedom of assembly.

it is the first party to hold an outright majority in parliament since Poland’s transition to democracy.



What they are saying



PIS has crossed a certain line and nothing will be the same again,” Tomasz Siemoniak, deputy leader of the biggest opposition group, Civic Platform, told local media.

“The sitting was illegal. Period. This is a constitutional crisis,” – the Civic Platform’s Grzegorz Schetyna said on social media.



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