Poland: what's behind Duda's veto?

Two days after Polish President Andrzej Duda used his veto to stop two of the three laws on judicial reform, Europe's press continues to speculate about his reasons. Some see his veto as a success for the demonstrators. For others the president is no more than a puppet on a string held by PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński.

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wPolityce.pl (PL) /

Duda has capitulated to the mob

The president should do his best to reverse his decision, Michał Karnowski urges in Wpolityce.pl:

“His decision was poorly reflected and rash. No doubt we - the Poles who support a reorganisation of the state - will pay for this for a long time to come. ... In my view there is one solution: it would suffice for President Duda to use his announced legislative initiative to present the same laws he vetoed - of course with certain corrections. ... Certainly, that would not get rid of the dark clouds that have hung over the camp of those who wish to overhaul the country ever since the president capitulated to the vulgar will of those who dream of bloody Maidan-style protests. But at least he can try to limit the damage.”

Postimees (EE) /

Kaczyński is pulling the strings

The Polish president's veto was nothing but a tactical manoeuvre, Postimees is convinced:

“No doubt the real initiative behind the veto didn't come from President Andrzej Duda. The real string-puller in Polish politics is still just one man, and the president is his tool. Jarosław Kaczyński has many qualities that make him a great politician. ... He is very intelligent, he holds to his principles, he is an excellent strategist and a clever political engineer. ... Unfortunately he is also extremely stubborn, vindictive and paranoid. It's important to be aware of these negative qualities to understand the developments in Poland in recent years that have increasingly clamped down on the legal system, the special services and the media - with the goal of consolidating Kaczyński's grip on power.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

PiS's enemies abroad are exaggerating

The criticism of Poland coming from abroad blows things out of all proportion, the website Echo24 believes:

“The current Polish government acts autonomously within the European framework, which has led to its being depicted as authoritarian and nationalistic. Critics of the government have a strong lobby in foreign media, for example in the person of the well-known commentator for the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum, wife of Radosław Sikorski, the former foreign minister under the Civic Platform. Yet what's happening in Poland now is nothing other than the usual political battle between liberals and conservatives. If the Civic Platform and the other opposition parties can convince the Poles with their programmes in two years' time, they'll be able to implement their own political and social agendas. The outcome of the election is solely in the hands of the Poles.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Solidarność rebooted

Magyar Nemzet sees in Poland a renaissance of the pro-European movement:

“The long tradition of democratic resistance in Poland seems to be experiencing a glorious revival. The new edition of the world-famous Solidarność logo and the rock hits of former democratic resistance booming out at the demonstrations are a clear sign that a jolt has gone through society. … What changes this wave of demonstrations will bring remains unclear for now. But one thing is certain: the demonstrators who are waving Polish and EU flags simultaneously couldn't be more diverse: liberal hipsters, former dissenters and fear-inspiring football fans from the far right.”

Pravda (SK) /

Astonishingly responsible

It was crucial that the president should stand up to Kaczyński, Pravda believes:

“Duda's sense of responsibility for the country was greater than his loyalty to the party. Until now it seemed as if he would faithfully carry out Kaczyński's orders. ... The problem is, however, that Kaczyński's experiment may have left Poland isolated. Clearly Duda was aware of this danger. And he must have known that his signature could have cost him his career. It's true, no one entertains too many illusions when it comes to post-communist judges. And the PiS won the elections with a programme that targeted residual communist elements in society. But clearly Kaczyński crossed a red line in tampering with the judiciary.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Questionable motives

Despite his veto President Duda still hasn't come out clearly against the judicial reform, the Tages-Anzeiger points out:

“In his announcement the president made no mention either of the constitution or of the principle of judicial independence enshrined in it. What's more, he is in favour of a third anti-constitutional amendment that puts most of the other Polish courts but not the supreme court under the Minister of Justice. Until proved otherwise it is therefore questionable whether Duda is really acting out of concern for the rule of law or whether he's just worried that Poland's Justice Minister will have too much power and he will have too little.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Kaczyński has miscalculated

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sees President Duda turning into a powerful opponent of Kaczyński:

“This is more likely to bring changes to the country's political landscape than all the opposition's demonstrations taken together. Kaczyński has clearly miscalculated in one respect: if you don't take on any office yourself you can't pull all the strings. It's good that this development is coming from within Poland itself. The various Brussels procedures aimed at preserving the rule of law smell of external interference and bullying. … Now Poland should be given some time to reach a new consensus on what the new relationship between politics and justice should look like. There is not just one model for this in Europe.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Right may split into two camps

Rzeczpospolita believes the president may be able to gather a section of the right around him:

“Duda has shown that when he wants to he can be an independent president with the courage to oppose the PiS and Jarosław Kaczyński. … That means that all those who don't agree with the PiS leader's strategy of permanent conflict and radicalness may start to rally around President Duda. … This could split the right into two camps - a radical-revolutionary camp around Jarosław Kaczyński and a more moderate, republican-conservative one around Andrzej Duda.”

Etelä-Suomen Sanoma (FI) /

Veto comes just in time for EU

The president's intervention must have come as a relief for the EU, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat concludes:

“President Duda's decision to use his veto came just at the right moment for the EU. If it had been obliged to simply look on once again as a member country violated its values and the principle of the rule of law, the EU would have lost even more authority and credibility. Governments like those in Poland and Hungary will continue to challenge these values in the future. For that reason the EU must think about how to deal with such situations when they arise.”