Polish minister accuses opposition of trying to seize power illegally (VIDEO)

WARSAW, Dec 17 — Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak accused opposition parties today of trying to seize power illegally, while lawmakers occupied parliament’s plenary hall for a second day in the country’s biggest political standoff in years.

In the early hours today, police had forcefully broken up a blockade of exits from the legislature’s building in central Warsaw, set up by protesters who said ruling party lawmakers had violated the constitution by illegally passing the 2017 budget law on Friday.

Protesters try to block the exit of the Polish Parliament in Warsaw December 17, 2016. — Reuters pic
Protesters try to block the exit of the Polish Parliament in Warsaw December 17, 2016. — Reuters pic

A spokesman for the Civil Platform (PO) party, the largest opposition grouping in parliament, said about 20-30 members of the party had been taking turns to sit in the plenary hall.

“The whole PO parliamentary club is in the Sejm,” Jan Grabiec told Reuters.

About 30 protesters remained in front of the Sejm, according to a Reuters correspondent.

The crisis started on Friday when opposition lawmakers protested against plans by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to curb media access to the parliament, by blocking access to the plenary hall podium ahead of the budget vote.

The budget passed with voting taking place in a nearby hall, escalating the conflict between the opposition and PiS, which within a year of assuming power extended its authority by tightening control over public media and weakening the country’s highest court.

“In my opinion, yesterday’s events were an illegal attempt to seize power,” Blaszczak told RMF FM private radio.

Ryszard Petru, leader of the opposition Nowoczesna party, said the next protest was planned for 1100 GMT in front of the Presidential Palace, in Warsaw’s centre.

“If the situation which is taking place, in which ... PiS has lost the trust of the people, if the situation continues, early elections will be necessary,” Petru told the TVN 24 private news channel. —Reuters

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