The stand off between the Polish government and the Constitutional Tribunal has entered a new stage.
The Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that the amendments made at the end of last year by the Polish government to the operations of the country's top legislative court are unconstitutional. This was shortly followed by the Polish government announcing that it would not recognise nor publish this ruling, as it contravened the very rule changes that the government had introduced.
What we have here is a constitutional crisis, with the highest organs of the state openly coming into conflict with each other: The Court has refused to abide by the government's new rulings as to how it should operate; and the government is not accepting the rulings that this Court is now making. Article 190 of the Polish constitution states that all the rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal are universally binding and final and must be published by the Prime Minister's Office.
All of this comes at a time when the Polish government is facing increasing criticism from abroad. The Venice Commission is about to publish a report on the state of Poland's democracy, with a leaked prelimary opinion from the report stating that the ongoing constitutional crisis in Poland poses a danger to the rule of law, democracy and human rights. The government has said that the publication of this report should be delayed due to this leak, a request that has been rejected by the Venice Commission.
In recent months divisions within Polish society have sharpened. The Committee in Defense of Democracy (KOD) have organised a series of large demonstrations, whilst the left-wing party Razem (Together) is currently holding a vigil outside the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and have shone an image of the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling on the walls of the building (see picture above).
Nevertheless, the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) is maintaining a strong lead in the opinion polls and has itself been able to mobilise large numbers of its supporters on the streets. The language used by leading members of PiS and the government against the opposition movement and those that criticise it is becoming increasingly hostile. The President of PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, has said this week that a broad coalition lies behind KOD that would like to reduce Poland to the level of a colony. He stated that they are the same people that like to blame Poland for all the negative things that have happened in Europe over the past century; that laugh at everything connected to patriotism, who broke all cultural standards after the the Smoleńsk tragedy and have trampled on all that is sacred in Polish culture.
Likewise in a speech this week attacking those who have criticised the government from abroad, President Andrzej Duda said that:
We are all intelligent people. We are proud of our fatherland. We are people who understand the processes of history and who understand what it means that our state is being used. And that we are being treated as second category people means that it is high time that we said that here in Poland that we are people of the first category.
Although PiS was the first party in Poland's modern history to have gained an overall majority in parliament, it still only won 38% of the vote in an election with just over a 50% turnout. Neither the government nor the opposition command a majority in society and both sides are increasingly coming into conflict with one another. With the government demonsing those in the opposition as being of the 'worse sort' in Polish society, then the possibility of further conflicts and even a new authoritarian crackdown increases.