Poland’s Senate opened debate Friday on a contentious draft law that would dismiss the country’s current Supreme Court judges and let President Andrzej Duda appoint new ones, reports the Associated Press. Earlier, a special Senate commission swiftly reviewed and approved the bill, which critics say violates the nation’s constitution and opens the door to political influence over the top court. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Warsaw and other cities to oppose the proposal. A vote by the full Senate was expected later Friday.
Top judicial bodies in the neighboring Czech Republic took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling the latest steps by the Polish government “an unprecedented attack on judicial independence.” The European Union has also condemned the proposed law and the speed with which it was pushed through. European Council head Donald Tusk, Poland’s former prime minister, says the proposed law contradicts EU values and is hurting Poland’s international image. Both the Polish Senate and lower house are controlled by the conservative Law and Justice party. The bill needs only Senate approval before Duda signs it into law.