Polish parliament to suspend session, continue after elections

Senior politicians have decided to suspend a planned three-day parliamentary session after its first day, Wednesday, and to continue on October 15, two days after the parliamentary election, Deputy Speaker Ryszard Terlecki has announced.

This unprecedented move raised concerns among opposition MPs who fear the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party may want to put new issues on the session’s agenda and use the party’s current majority in parliament in case the result of the election proves less favourable for them.

Mr Terlecki said the break-up was motivated by “a short election campaign and the MPs’ requests to go to their constituencies.”

Deputy Speaker Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, a candidate for prime minister by the main opposition bloc, the centrist Civic Platform-Civic Coalition (PO-KO), said the decision surprised her, “as this parliament is ending its activity, it was supposed to be its last sitting.”

“It is happening for the first time ever, I don't remember such a situation where parliament continued work right after the election,” she added.

“It is as if PiS was preparing itself for some moves after the election,” she said.

Marek Sawicki of the agrarian Polish People's Party (PSL) also said such a situation had no precedence since the fall of communism in 1989. He also expressed concerns that the current parliamentary majority may include new items on the session’s agenda at the last moment.

His concerns were reiterated by Stanisław Tyszka of the right-wing Kukiz'15 movement that joined forces with PSL in their bid for parliament.

Mr Terlecki assured that after the break there will be no new items on the Sejm agenda.

Comment:

Any decision to suspend the sitting of Parliament ahead of an election with the continuation after that election is bound to raise eyebrows and lead to criticism. But a Boris Johnson-style prorogation it is not.

Constitutionally and legally it is perfectly kosher. According to the Polish Constitution, the present Parliament sits until the first day of the new one. And there are countries, like the US, where the legislature sits based on its pre-election composition until the term of office of the new one begins.

There is no notion of a “dissolution” of Parliament in Poland. Its term of office can be reduced in certain circumstances but it sits until a new one has been elected and holds its first sitting.

Is the government trying to pull a fast one? Doubtful, as anything this Parliament agrees could be overturned by the next one. It is much more likely that the ruling party decided to cut the amount of time the opposition would have in Parliament to put its case ahead of the election.


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