2016-03-12 17:55:00

Protests against government in Poland

(Vatican Radio) Tens of thousands of Poles have protested in the capital Warsaw and other cities against the government, calling for constitutional order amid concerns over a perceived government crackdown on the constitutional court, known as the Constitutional Tribunal, and media. Saturday's protests came amid international concern over what critics view as a threat to Poland's young democracy.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report: 

As many as 50,000 people marched in Warsaw from the Constitutional Tribunal to the palace of the president who has placed a key role in what critics view as a constitutional crisis.

Noisy protesters at the front of the march carried a large banner saying "let's bring back the constitutional order."

Similar rallies have been held in other cities such as Poznan and Wroclaw. The opposition is furious that the ruling Law and Justice party has introduced measures that have undermined the court's ability to check on government power.

Venice Commission

The Venice Commission, which investigated the situation for the Council of Europe human rights body, expressed concern that the country's top court had been "crippled" by the government moves.

And earlier this week the Constitutional Court ruled that the new measures were unconstitutional. But the government says it will not recognize the ruling. It has even refused to publish it, which prevents the ruling from becoming binding.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, has launched a probe into the rule of law in the country. But the outcome of that investigation will take time.

Critics say the Polish government is taking similar actions as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who has come under pressure for his perceived crackdown on previously independent institutions ranging from the constitutional court, the central bank, media and even churches.

Media crackdown?

Other measures launched by the recently elected Polish government included changing legislation so it can appoint key leaders at public broadcasters.

Demonstrators say attempts to neutralize the Constitutional Tribunal, which could independently check these and other controversial measures is an attack on democratic values.

They point out that Poland's democracy was won after years of sacrifice by famed leader Lech Walesa and his Solidarity Movement in the 1980s.

The government has denied wrongdoing. 

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