Constitutional Capture in Poland 2016 and Beyond: What is Next?

2016 will go down in history as fundamental in the institutional history of Polish Constitutionalism. It began with an unprecedented attack on the Constitutional Tribunal, rule of law, checks and balances and judicial independence. It ends with full-blown constitutional crisis. The dramatic events in the Sejm and on the streets only corroborate that Poland is on the slippery slope towards autocracy.

Last Friday PiS decided to go all-in in its quest for total and unrestrained control. It Crossed the line by illegally passing the budget for next year and voting outside of the main chamber of the Parliament. It was not the first time that PIS broke all major rules of parliamentary regulations and excluded the opposition. We have already seen it before (pushing relentlessly through the Parliament all laws on the Constitutional. Tribunal with voting often scheduled in the wee hours). Yet, this time it was different as the Disdain for the opposition and blatant manipulation of the legislative process brought the pent – up emotions to the boiling point. The protests spelt over onto the streets of Warsaw and other major cities in Poland. The civic society has spoken for the first time since PIS was voted back into power last October. The powerful "No" to the politics of dividing people and sowing the hatred and distrust was heard all over Poland. Spirit of the old solidarity and of constitutional moment was clearly in the air. Something constitutionally significant has happened last week and time can only tell how to build on this huge positive energy as we move forward.

Today, the President of the Constitutional Tribunal, Andrzej Rzepliński, is ending his term, after 9 years as judge and 6 as president, and after 12 months of indefatigable resistance at great personal and professional cost, leaving the court to a fate uncertain at best ...

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