December 13, 2016
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The chairman of Poland’s conservative ruling party says he does not like the style of political debate in Poland and the country’s leadership plans measures to “bring order” to the opposition’s activities.
Law and Justice Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s former prime minister, did not specify the measures or their timing, but said he expects they will be criticized by many as efforts to limit freedom and democracy.
“On our part, there will definitely be attempts to introduce some kind of order into the opposition’s activity,” Kaczynski said in an interview on state radio. Hours later, thousands of government opponents gathered in central Warsaw under the slogan “Stop the Devastation of Poland,” singing the national anthem in unison at the start of their rally. They oppose changes brought by Kaczynski in the 13 months that his Law and Justice party has been in power.
The protests are being held on the 35th anniversary of martial law, a harsh communist-era clampdown imposed in 1981 in an attempt to crush the pro-democracy Solidarity movement. Law and Justice has enacted changes that have been condemned by the European Union and the United States as an erosion of some democratic standards. The most controversial is a new law that has damaged the ability of the Constitutional Tribunal to act as a check on government power.
Also Tuesday, Poland’s government said it was taking steps to strip two late communist-era generals of their top military ranks. The move is part of the ruling conservatives’ larger mission to punish the communists who held oppressive power for decades until they were toppled in 1989.
Those targeted are the top leaders who imposed martial law, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, and his deputy, Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak. Jaruzelski died in 2014 and Kiszczak in 2015. “Today, for the last time, will the word ‘general’ be used alongside the name of Mr. Jaruzelski,” Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said, adding that Kiszczak also was being stripped of his rank.
“Criminals responsible for armed action against their own nation do not deserve to wear these military ranks,” Macierewicz said. While the moves against Jaruzelski and Kiszczak are largely symbolic, Law and Justice party lawmakers also are debating a new law aimed at reducing the pensions of retired secret security officials and some military leaders from the communist era.
Their persons are higher than pensions of ordinary Poles, and the government argues that officials who served under the system imposed by Moscow do not merit any privileges.