WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved a bill changing the appointment process for the judicial panel that nominates judges, part of a broader overhaul of the country’s justice system.
The lower house of parliament voted 237-166, with 22 abstentions on Friday to pass the bill on appointments to the National Council of the Judiciary as opposition lawmakers shouted “dictatorship!”
The legislation would give lawmakers the right to choose 15 out of the council’s 25 judges. The judicial body’s members currently all are selected by fellow judges.
Its passage came shortly after a companion bill changing the rules governing the Supreme Court sailed through.
The ruling Law and Justice party says the laws will make the courts more efficient and responsive to the needs of ordinary Poles.
Critics see a power grab since the laws would give the ruling party greater power over the courts.
A lawmaker with Poland’s ruling party says much-criticized legislation passed by the lower house of parliament will put the courts at the service of regular citizens.
Two bills — one that would change the functioning of the nation’s Supreme Court, another revising the process for naming the National Council of the Judiciary — won overwhelming approval.
Parliament member Wojciech Skurkiewicz told The Associated Press: “The judges are to serve the people, not humiliate them, as the party believes has been the case.”
He says judges “will now be equal to ordinary people, they cannot be above them.”
Opposition lawmakers and some European institutions are condemning the legislation as a threat to judicial independence.