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Poland's President Unexpectedly Vetoes Bill On Judicial Reform, Zloty Surges

Polish President Andrzej Duda unexpectedly said on Monday that he would veto two of three bills reforming the country's judiciary system, easing Brussels' fears that the ruling Law and Justice party will undermine the division of powers. In a news conference on Monday morning, Duda said that he would veto two of three contentious bills, one that would have forced all members of the Supreme Court to step down, except for those kept on by the president; and a second that would have given parliament control over the National Judicial Council, the body that appoints judges, the FT reports.

"I have decided that I will send back to Sejm (lower house of parliament), which means I will veto the bill, on the Supreme Court, as well as the one about the National Council of the Judiciary," Duda said after days of mass street protests adding “I regret that I, as president of the Republic of Poland, wasn’t consulted over this initiative before it reached the Sejm [the lower house of parliament]. I couldn’t carry out consultations [on this matter] and nor could the other interested entities."

Duda's veto puts him at odds with the de facto leader of the country, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is the leader of PiS but has no formal government post, Reuters notes. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party claims that the changes are necessary to overhaul an inefficient system that has not been purged since the collapse of communism almost three decades ago.

However, in recent days the legislation has faced mounting international criticism, and sparked days of protests, with tens of thousands of Poles taking to the streets to rally against the changes which they fear would undermine the independence of the judiciary. The US State Department on Friday urged Poland to “ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers”.

Duda's decision was greeted by the opposition: "What we had was not a reform, but appropriation of the courts. I congratulate all Poles, this is a great success, really," Katarzyna Lubnauer, head of the parliamentary caucus of the opposition party Nowoczesna.

Meanwhile the Polish zloty, which tumbled under pressure as the battle over the judicial reforms has unfolded, jumped on the news, trading up 0.9 per cent at PLN4.24 against the euro.