‘Democratorship & creeping coup d'etat!’ Anti-government protesters rally in Poland

People hold up a banner that reads, "Jaroslaw (Kaczynski) leave Poland", during an anti-government demonstration in front of the Constitutional Court in Warsaw, Poland December 12, 2015 © Kacper Pempel
Tens of thousands took to the streets in Warsaw and several other Polish cities to reject the conservative government’s meddling with the highest judicial body, the Constitutional Tribunal, dubbing it “democratorship” and a “creeping coup d'etat.”

In the Polish capital, Warsaw, about 50,000 people joined the massive march, according to the local authorities, exceeding the expectations of rally organizers. The demonstrators protested against what they called a government’s attempt to manipulate and usurp the country's supreme court.

Some opposition MPs, who also joined the rally, even accused the ruling party of a “creeping coup d'etat,” according to the Telegraph. Others called the policy of the new government a “democratorship,” reported Reuters.

The protesters gathered in front of the building of the Poland’s Constitutional Court called the Constitutional Tribunal and then marched past the Parliament building to the presidential palace. They were carrying Polish and European Union flags and were chanting, "we want the constitution, not a revolution” as well as “we will defend democracy” and “Freedom, equality and democracy,” Polish media report.

Some protesters were also carrying banners calling on Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, to leave Poland and others were chanting “Duda must go!” referring to the country’s President Andrzej Duda.

The rally under the slogan “Citizens for Democracy” was organized by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy movement (KOD).

“Together we will stand as a non-partisan front to protect democracy and show our discontent regarding what is being done to institutions in a democratic state,” the founder of the KOD movement, Mateusz Kijowski, told Radio Poland.

At the same time, dozens of nationalists attempted to interrupt the KOD rally in Warsaw. Some of them held banners and polish flags, as two others took two pig heads and put them over a KOD banner

The demonstration was attended by the members of different opposition parties, including the previously ruling Civic Platform (PO), Polish Peoples’ Party (PSL), Nowoczesna and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Poland’s media report.

“This is not only about the Tribunal, more is at stake than one legal clause or judge,” said former labor minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, as quoted by the Radio Poland.

“We need to take note of the preamble of Poland’s Constitution which points to the interests of all citizens and not the interests of just one party,” he added.

Similar demonstrations also took place in some other Polish cities, including Wroclaw, Lublin, Poznan and Szczecin, AP reports.

The protests were provoked by a dispute centered on the ruling party and president Duda’s attempt to replace five out of 15 judges of the Constitutional Tribunal, which the opposition labeled a violation of the constitution.

The Law and Justice party argues that the new replacements will facilitate the correction of the unfair appointments made by the previous government at the very end of its term that allegedly made the court “biased.”

The opposition accuses the government of seeking to gain control over the judicial body by installing loyal judges in order to secure its own plans to change the constitution. It also seeks to reform the retirement system and cut foreign ownership of banks – moves that the Constitutional Tribunal could potentially block.

Meanwhile, the ruling party plans to stage its own march in Warsaw on Sunday to mark the 34th anniversary of martial law imposed by the then-Communist government against Poland's solidarity movement.