Polish Opposition Celebrates Taking Control of Senate

WARSAW, Poland—Polands opposition parties elected their candidate as speaker of the Senate on Nov. 12, a small victory for them that allows them to act as a check on the power of the populist right-wing ruling party.

Sen. Tomasz Grodzki was elected speaker in a 51–48 vote with one abstention during the first sitting of the newly elected party. Grodzki hailed the move as a victory for democracy. Until the Nov. 12 vote, it wasnt certain that the opposition parties would manage to take control of the Senate.

For the past four years, the ruling Law and Justice party has put through a series of laws giving it much greater power over the judicial system. The European Union has often expressed its concerns that the party was eroding judicial independence, warning that the rule of law in the young democracy was on the line.

In many cases, with control of both houses of Parliament, the party would rush through laws without allowing opposition lawmakers any say.

Now, the Senate will be able to slow down, though not block, the passage of laws. Perhaps even more importantly, the Senate has the power to appoint the heads of some key state bodies and the opposition—if it maintains its majority—will be able to block the nominations of some ruling party loyalists.

The Law and Justice party has been trying to win over some of the opposition members in the Senate, but has so far failed.

Earlier on Nov. 12, the lower house of Parliament also named its speaker—Elzbieta Witek of Law and Justice.

President Andrzej Duda opened the first day of Parliaments four-year term with a speech that paid homage to Polands tradition of being a land of tolerance and a place where many ethnic and religious groups lived for centuries in relative harmony. He also paid tribute to Roman Catholicism and strong family traditions that he credited with preserving the social fabric over a difficult history.

The parliamentary election on Oct. 13 gave a second-term Law and Justice party, which won nearly 44 percent of the votes, the highest percentage of any party since Poland returned to democracy 30 years ago.

But the election alsoRead More – Source