Poland’s frustrated opposition calls for protests against new pro-EU government

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The Justice and Law Party, ousted in recent elections, says the protests are a defense of democracy and media freedom.

ANNOUNCEMENT

Poland’s right-wing opposition, frustrated with its recent loss of power, urged its supporters to protest on Thursday against moves by the new pro-European Union government to take control of state broadcasters and the state news agency.

The Law and Justice party, which governed for eight years before losing October’s parliamentary elections, called for a “Free Poles” protest outside parliament. He described the protest as a defense of democracy and media freedom, although he was criticized during his time in power for curbing media freedom.

It was unclear what the response would be, but emotions ran high over the growing standoff between the current and previous governments.

The protest was called for the same day that a controversial chamber of the Supreme Court, still controlled by Law and Justice, was due to rule on the validity of the elections. The elections saw a record national turnout of over 74% and gave power to a coalition of parties opposed to Law and Justice.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s new government is determined to reverse some of its populist predecessor’s policies, including those that brought conflict with the EU, such as changes that put Poland’s justice system under political control.

In one of its first steps, Tusk’s government moved to take control of state television, radio and the PAP news agency, which Law and Justice turned into tools of aggressive propaganda against its critics and against Tusk personally.

Leaders of the previous government argue that Tusk’s moves were illegal and have staged occupations of media premises, saying they are defending media freedom and democratic norms. Commentators say Law and Justice wants to maintain control of national broadcasters ahead of local government elections this spring.

Members of Law and Justice, as well as their ally, President Andrzej Duda, are also protesting against the arrest on Tuesday of two senior figures from the previous government who were convicted by a Warsaw court of abuse of power. The party called the arrests politically motivated.

While in power, Law and Justice was repeatedly accused by legal experts of violating the Polish legal system and the rule of law.

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