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Will postponing parliament end Poland's political standoff?

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By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
Will postponing parliament end Poland's political standoff?

Poland’s governing party says it is ready to postpone the start of a new post-Christmas parliamentary session if the opposition ends its nearly month-long occupation of the plenary hall.

The Law and Justice Party says it needs time to find a solution to the country’s political standoff, which revolves around media freedom and the state budget.

“We are ready to agree to postpone the beginning of the session if the (Civic) Platform ceases its occupation of the plenary hall and other parties declare they would not do it in the future,” Deputy Speaker of the lower house Ryszard Terlecki told journalists.

Time for talks

The delay should allow time for talks aimed at ending a sit-in by opposition lawmakers protesting a vote on the 2017 budget.

How did the crisis start?

It began in mid-December.

Moves by the conservative Law and Justice (PIS) Party to curb the number of journalists in parliament, along with their right to record proceedings, prompted opposition lawmakers to start the sit-in.

That led the PIS to move a 2017 budget vote to an auxiliary chamber of parliament in December, prompting the opposition to accuse it of voting on it illegally.

What the opposition say

Poland’s largest opposition party, Civic Platform (PO), has also called for the start of a new session to be postponed for a week.

The Civic Platform has rejected the appeals from the PIS.

The party says it will stick to its blockade if the PIS tries to relaunch parliament.

PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna said his party would occupy “any room in which (the PIS) will try to organise proceedings.”

This came after the rejection of an offer from PIS counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski to try to find a compromise.

On Wednesday, Schetyna proposed delaying resumption of parliament’s proceedings until January 18 to allow time to resolve the standoff.

The European Commission

In December, the European Commission gave Poland two months to address what it called “a systematic threat to the rule of law in Poland.”

Kaccyznski’s eurosceptic party enjoys strong and steady support of around a third of Poles.