World

Poland's top politician says judiciary needs radical steps

Poland's most powerful politician insisted Friday that "radical changes" are necessary to heal the nation's judiciary and vowed to push ahead despite vehement protests from Poland's opposition and European bodies.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling populist Law and Justice party, was referring at a news conference to new regulations that give lawmakers power over the body which chooses judges and to a draft law that would empower the justice minister to appoint or dismiss Supreme Court justices.

Earlier, the party had put its loyalists on another top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, and took control of state-owned media.

The opposition and some European politicians say these moves snuffed out judicial independence and violated democracy and the rule of law.

Under the euroskeptic party, Poland already is subject to a European Union procedure reviewing the government's dedication to European values.

Kaczynski, a lawyer, contended that the judiciary sector has not been reformed since communist times, lacks moral principles, is inefficient and needs younger personnel.

"You cannot change that without far-reaching moves, without radical changes," Kaczynski said. "What we need to do, we will do."

He insisted the changes were in the public interest and fulfilled the party's election campaign promises. Law and Justice won the 2015 elections and controls the parliament. It enjoys steady support of above 30 percent of voters. Critics say that is chiefly due to the party's generous program of social benefits to the poorest.

The head of the Supreme Court, Malgorzata Gersdorf, who was member of the anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s, has protested the proposed changes as going in the wrong direction and has defended the "highest level of professionalism" of the judges.

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This story has been corrected to say Kaczynski spoke of "radical changes" not "radical actions."