President appoints Aleksander Stępkowski as new interim chief of Supreme Court

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TVN24 News in English, Reuters
Chief Justice Małgorzata Gersdorf says President Duda should remind himself of what the constitution isTVN24
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TVN24Chief Justice Małgorzata Gersdorf says President Duda should remind himself of what the constitution is

Poland's president appointed an ultra-conservative as new interim head of the Supreme Court on Friday after his predecessor resigned, deepening judicial and political turmoil ahead of a controversial presidential election.

Aleksander Stępkowski is an ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and a founder of think tank Ordo Iuris which, among other issues, supports stricter restrictions on abortion. He was appointed by President Andrzej Duda, another close PiS ally, after Kamil Zaradkiewicz, an ex-justice ministry official, resigned earlier in the day after a standoff with judges.

PiS has been accused by the European Union's executive body of undermining judicial checks and balances. The party says its judicial reforms are designed to remove the residue of Poland's Communist-era legal system and boost efficiency.

The acting Supreme Court chief is meant to oversee the election of a successor to Małgorzata Gersdorf, who was a high-profile critic of the conservative nationalist government until her term ended in April. In a televised statement, Zaradkiewicz accused judges who opposed him of trying to impose their own rules on the selection process and intimidating new judges appointed under PiS reforms. "I no longer intend to tolerate such practices," he said.

Bartłomiej Przymusiński, a judge and spokesman for the Iustitia judges association said Stępkowski would work in favour of the ruling party. "Stepkowski is a former politician. I expect him to continue PiS's policy of taking over the Supreme Court," he said. Stępkowski was not immediately available to comment.

Change of candidate

Poland is expected to hold a presidential election at the end of June or start of July, after the original May 10 date was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The main centrist opposition grouping, Civic Platform (PO), chose Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski as its new candidate on Friday after its previous candidate resigned. Trzaskowski, a former member of European Parliament, has sought to introduce sex education in Warsaw, a move PiS said could propagate "LGBT ideology" and needlessly "sexualize children".

The previous PO candidate, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, had urged Poles not to vote if the election were held in May as scheduled, to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19. Support for her plunged below 5% from above 20% in February.

Duda leads the race with 45% support followed by independent candidate Szymon Hołownia at 19%, the agrarian PSL party's Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz 17% and far-right candidate Krzysztof Bosak 9%, according to a recent opinion poll.

Autor:gf

Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters

Źródło zdjęcia głównego: PAP/Marcin Obara