Polish opposition ends parliamentary occupation

Warsaw, Jan 12 (IANS) Poland’s main opposition party on Thursday ended its occupation of Parliament’s plenary hall after nearly a month of protests against the ruling party.

Members of the centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party launched their demonstrations on December 16 in protest against the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party’s national budget bill and irregular voting procedures, Efe news reported.

“If we take into account that we have at least guaranteed media access to the Parliament, we can now suspend our protest,” PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna told the media.

PiS backtracked on its decision to regulate and limit journalists’ access to the legislative chamber, which the opposition considered an attack on press freedom.

However, the ruling far-right party refuses to repeat the budget bill vote that was impugned by the PO and other parties for what they say was a lack of quorum during the tally.

The national-conservatives hope for the budget bill to be soon ratified by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who between 2005-2015 belonged to PiS but is now officially an independent.

Schetyna stressed that Poland de facto lacks a duly-approved budget and warned against the pernicious effects on the national economy that the current budget could have.

On the other hand, Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said that occupying the plenary hall of the Polish Parliament could incur heavy fines and prison sentences of up to 10 years.

The block on Wednesday forced the first Sejm — lower house of parliament — session of 2017 to start with a seven-hour delay and lasted only minutes due to the mass of PO parliamentarians blocking the lectern.