10:47 Apr. 29, 2016
The high possibility of constitutional crisis remains in Poland
The Polish government faces a growing rebellion among judges and local authorities over its reform of the constitutional court, in a row that could lead to different state bodies following conflicting legal standards.
In recent days, several municipalities, including the city of Warsaw, and the Supreme Court have said they will recognize the rulings of the constitutional court even if the government refuses to do so.
The ruling conservatives, meanwhile, insist the constitutional court's verdicts are illegal until it complies with the reform, which includes new regulations increasing the majority required for the court to pass a ruling.
Critics say the changes are part of an authoritarian push by the conservatives to bring key institutions to heel.
The new rules have drawn international criticism, including from the European Union and some rating agencies, which say they undermine the state's credibility. The constitutional judges have themselves struck the proposed reforms down as illegal.
The latest body to throw its weight behind the constitutional court is the top administrative court, which said on Wednesday it was the government's duty to recognize rulings "without undue delay".
"Such statements reflect the disapproval (of the government) and its failure to uphold the constitution," said Jan Wawrzyniak, a constitutional law professor at a Warsaw university.
"What they can lead to is our legal system being split into two competing realities."
The Law and Justice party (PiS) argues its reform of the constitutional court is necessary to reflect a new balance of power in Poland after it won an October election. It is dismissive of talk of pending legal trouble.
"In reality, it's a team of cronies who got together to defend the previous government's status quo," PiS spokeswoman Beata Mazurek told reporters, referring to the Supreme Court's decision to defy the government.