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Poland's opposition wins speaker seat in upper house of parliament

Poland's opposition wins speaker seat in upper house of parliament
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WARSAW (Reuters) – The Polish opposition secured the post of Senate speaker in a parliamentary vote on Tuesday seen as a test of its ability to retain control of the upper house after winning it in an Oct. 13 general election.

The loss of the Senate was a blow to the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party because that could delay some of its legislative ambitions. These include further changes to the justice system, which have concerned the European Union.

Since the election, Polish media have reported that PiS had made overtures to opposition senators in an attempt to establish a working majority.

In Tuesday’s vote for speaker, the opposition candidate, centrist Civic Platform’s (PO) senator Tomasz Grodzki, a 61-year-old surgeon, won 51 votes, while the PiS’ candidate Stanislaw Karczewski received 48 votes in the 100-member Senate. One lawmaker refrained from voting.

“This is a victory of democracy,” Grodzki told the Senate.

During its first term in power PiS, accused by the EU of subverting the rule of law, gained a reputation for pushing through bills at breakneck speed, with hastily called late-night lower house sittings followed by quick approval from the Senate.

“Taking over the Senate means very severe strengthening of the opposition. For the PiS every vote lost in the Senate is an image loss,” said Warsaw University sociologist Jacek Haman.

(Reporting by Anna Koper and Marcin Goclowski; editing by Justyna Pawlak and Grant McCool)

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