European Council president invokes the word ‘dictatorship’ and reminded audience of protests in Poland under communism that ended in bloodshed
People hold banners reading ‘We will not give Freedom’ and hold up copies of the Polish constitution as they take part in a demonstration on 18 December, 2016 EPA ***
Anti-government protests in Poland have entered their third day, as opposition leaders blockaded the parliament in Warsaw, in a move the ruling party has condemned as an illegal attempt to seize power.
Around two dozen members of Poland’s main opposition party continued their sit-in protest in parliament on Sunday, as members of the public gathered outside to protest the ruling party’s plan to restrict journalists’ access to parliament.
New rules for journalists put forward by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party would restrict the number of journalists permitted to enter parliament and allow only five Polish TV stations to record or broadcast parliamentary sessions.
On Saturday, European Council President Donald Tusk invoked the word “dictatorship” and reminded his audience of protests in Poland under communism that ended in bloodshed.
“I appeal to those who hold real power in our country to respect the people, the principles and values of the constitution, the standing procedures and good practices,” Mr Tusk said in Wroclaw, where he was attending a cultural event.
He added a warning that whoever was undermining the “European model of democracy” in Poland was “exposing us all to strategic risks”.
Also speaking on Saturday, Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the opposition blockade was an “illegal attempt to seize power,” while Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo called the actions of the opposition “scandalous”.
“The move by the opposition to ignite extreme political emotions… has nothing to do with the actual condition of the country,” Ms Szydlo said.
“On the contrary, it is due to the helplessness, the frustration of those who have lost the power and who have no idea how to convince Poles of their views.”
Some protesters held up copies of the constitution on Saturday to show they believe it was not being observed by the ruling party.
They also chanted “Solidarity!” reflecting how many link today’s protests to the anti-communist opposition of the past.
Opposition leaders called for days of anti-government protests and pledged to keep blocking parliament.
On Sunday, Polish President Andrzej Duda offered to mediate between government and opposition leaders in an attempt to solve the political crisis.
Rallies supporting the government were also planned in Warsaw later on Sunday.