Poles object to former PiS MPs, Pawłowicz and Piotrowicz, being appointed to the captured Constitutional Tribunal [OPINION POLL]
In the Ipsos poll* for OKO.press, Poles were asked whether they think it is appropriate that people who until recently were PiS MPs, active in public life, are the Constitutional Tribunal judges. As many as 65% of the respondents said it was wrong, with as many as 49% saying it was “decidedly wrong”. Just 23% said it was normal practice.
The governing coalition in Poland, which justifies the sweeping changes into courts by the need to depoliticize the justice system, is spectacularly politicizing the Constitutional Tribunal. Krystyna Pawłowicz and Stanisław Piotrowicz were still Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS party, Law and Justice) MPs in September 2019, whereas, they were already judges of the Constitutional Tribunal in November. President Andrzej Duda took the oath of office from Krystyna Pawłowicz and Stanisław Piotrowicz in December 2019. Quietly, without the media being present.
Pawłowicz and Piotrowicz soon started to rule of the constitutionality of the legal provisions, on which they themselves worked when they were MPs. This was the case, for example, with the October 2020 ruling on the restriction of the right to abortion – Krystyna Pawłowicz, as an MP, signed an identical motion to the Constitutional Tribunal in the Sejm’s previous term of office – or the case of the ruling on the fictitious competence dispute between the Supreme Court and the Sejm in 2020.
However, Pawłowicz’s and Piotrowicz’s transfer to the Constitutional Tribunal was controversial not only for its legal but also for its symbolic dimension. It showed that the party is allowed absolutely everything, as both Pawłowicz and Piotrowicz were among PiS’s most controversial parliamentarians.
“Pigsty”, “shut up”, “shut your gobs as the chairman said”, “pig MPs” – Krystyna Pawłowicz happened to shout at opposition Civic Platform MPs during Justice Committee meetings and from the Sejm rostrum. “Whereas the red-headed BEAST is circling (…) frolicking, lying, scheming,” she wrote about Donald Tusk; “Ms. Janda is the voice of the streetwalkers who show women’s reproductive organs at demonstrations”, she commented on the speech of the famous actress. She referred to the EU flag as a “rag”, “I associate it with something bad, not good, dirty”.
Piotrowicz is one of the more “deserving” people in PiS. He was a senator from the party in 2005–2011 and an MP from 2011 to 2019. in the previous term of office, Piotrowicz was the Justcie Committee chairman, thus co-responsible for changes into courts enforced since 2015. (In)famously, in communist Poland, Piotrowicz worked as a prosecutor from 1978 to 2002. Although he himself declares that he “has a beautiful past”, his activities during the period of martial law give rise to serious doubts. At the end of his prosecution activity in 2001, he became famous for defending a paedophile priest.
Pawłowicz and Piotrowicz were also members of the neo-National Council of Judiciary.
In the Ipsos poll* for OKO.press in April 2021, Poles were asked whether they think it is appropriate that people who until recently were PiS MPs, active in public life, are the Constitutional Tribunal judges. As many as 65% of the respondents said it was wrong, with as many as 49% saying it was “decidedly wrong”. Just 23% said it was normal practice.
Do you consider it appropriate that judges, who, among others, until recently were PiS MPs, who were active in public life, are members of the Constitutional Tribunal?
Decidedely yes – 9 %,
Rather yes – 14 %,
Rather no – 16 %
Decidedely no – 46 %
Don’t know/difficult to say – 16 %
Among those with primary and secondary school education, 41% of those surveyed considered judge-politicians to be inappropriate; whereas the figure was twice as high among those with bachelor’s degrees and higher, at a level of 80%.
This kind of judicial nomination is considered normal practice by just 22% of the respondents with primary and secondary school education. They were much more likely – as many as 36% of them – to choose the response don’t know/difficult to say.
A slightly greater divergence of opinions can be noticed by age. The older the respondents, the more favourably they look upon Krystyna Pawłowicz and Stanisław Piotrowicz in the Constitutional Tribunal. But even despite this upward trend, in the oldest group of people aged 60 plus, the acceptance for this state of affairs was just 33%.
Why are the youngest most critical? The answer is quite simple – they do not vote for PiS. In this age group, PiS had a terrible result in the recent Ipsos poll, gaining just 2% of support.
It is also significant that the youngest voters willingly support anti-establishment politicians, who promise to use as little politics as possible, stirring up disputes and demagogy in their actions. In other words, they make the assurance that they are not politicians. Therefore, in the eyes of this part of the electorate, the appointment of professional and active politicians to independent institutions is even worse than simply being a professional politician serving a third term of office in the Sejm.
The most decisive in their assessment are male and female voters of the Left Party. 100% of answers were ‘no’, including 96% ‘definitely no’. The Civic Coalition’s electorate is just as negative – 98% indicated that it was wrong, with only 2% rating it as appropriate.
Poland 2050 voters showed an acceptance rate of 7%, whereby they were only responses of ‘rather yes’. As many as 90% of the democratic opposition, which has a clear opinion about the matter of judge-politicians, does not agree with such a policy of filling posts in the Constitutional Tribunal.
But what about the PiS voters? The result of the support for such staffing of the Constitutional Tribunal at a level of 57% certainly does not indicate extensive acceptance of such a move among these voters.
Both Pawłowicz and Piotrowicz were controversial figures even by this formation’s standards. Pawłowicz was repeatedly pacified by her own political base, which, for example, required her to withhold her activity on Twitter. Piotrowicz was eliminated from national politics by the PiS voters themselves. The ex-prosecutor did not get voted into the Sejm in 2019. Both are certainly the party’s faithful soldiers and this may have been the prevailing argument for their positioning in the Constitutional Tribunal, where some PiS-appointed judges manage to rebel from time to time.
*A telephone survey conducted by Ipsos using CATI on 26-28 April 2021 on a nationwide representative sample of 1000 adult Poles. The sample population was stratified and proportional. The place of residence of the respondents was controlled by voivodship and the category of the size of the town.
This text is based on an article published at OKO.press, May 25, 2021. Translated by Roman Wojtasz