Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro survives no confidence vote in the Sejm
Poland's Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, survived a vote of no confidence in the lower house of the Polish parliament. The evening vote was preceeded by a debate involving top politicians of the ruling party and the opposition. The vote over minister Ziobro came after the smear campaign scandal had been revealed, allegedly involving employees of the ministry of justice, including former deputy minister Łukasz Piebiak.
In total, 421 MPs took part in the vote, 174 were in favour of expressing no confidence towards minister Ziobro, 240 were against and 7 abstained.
The motion to hold a no confidence vote was submitted in late-August by the Civic Platform-Civic Coalition (PO-KO) MPs. The PO chief, Grzegorz Schetyna, said that the motion was a result of revealing of "an organised group of judges in the Ministry of Justice, who had been spreading hate and hate speech".
Earlier on Wednesday, the parliamentary Justice and Human Rights Committee issued a negative opinion regarding the proposed motion.
According to Onet.pl, the hate campaign is said to have involved, among others, former deputy justice minister Łukasz Piebiak, KRS members: Maciej Nawacki and Jarosław Dudzicz, Supreme Court justice Konrad Wytrykowski and judge-delegate at the ministry of justice Jakub Iwaniec.
After the scandal broke out, Piebiak stepped down as deputy minister and Iwaniec was recalled from delegation to the ministry. Wytrykowski announced that all information published by Onet.pl were untrue and infringed on his good name and reputation.
"Full responsibility for what was happening in the Ministry of Justice rests with the person who, according to the constitution, is entitled to calling up his deputies. This person is the justice minister, present here, who should step down, if he had any remains of honour," said former justice minister, Borys Budka from Civic Platform.
Deputy justice minister Michał Wójcik also took the floor. "It was you who had let organised crime groups into our country. You did it. You prepared the ground for international crime groups," he addressed the opposition. "Is that why you want minister Ziobro's dismissal, because he waged a war against criminals? Is that why you want to separate the functions of justice minister and prosecutor general?" he asked.
"Minister Zbigniew Ziobro is the best justice minister after the war, except of president Lech Kaczyński," Wójcik said.
Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, PO-KO MP, said that "whoever defends Zbigniew Ziobro today, is defending hate campaign that targeted innocent people".
"There's more politics in the justice system, proceedings are drawn-out, there's no transparency and clarity. You've passed many pseudo-reforms, you've made many changes, but they only lead to one thing - politics in the justice system," said the chairman of the Polish People's Party, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz.
"If the minister knew about all that was happening, what his deputies were doing, that the prosecutor's office had the materials five months ago, and yet he failed to act, then it's very bad, ladies and gentlemen. There are some who believe in this. On the other hand, if he didn't know, then it's even worse and the more he does not deserve his function, and the more he should step down himself," said MP Maciej Masłowski, presenting the standpoint of Kukiz '15 club.
Minister Ziobro himself also spoke during the debate. He stressed that the motion to dismiss him had been filed "exactly the moment when Polish prosecutors were issuing an order to secure a record-breaking 1.4 billion zlotys". "We've taken it away from drug cartels, the mafia and money launderers. It was made possible thanks to the good change," Ziobro explained.
"Together with the whole United Right government, we give Poles what we had promised before the election, we give the good change, and this change is real," he added.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki argued that minister Ziobro's reaction to the hate campaign scandal was "fast and appropriate".
"Your motion is baseless because it pertains to a reality that was quickly repaired," Morawiecki said.
The prime minister also added that the opposition sees only the actions of one side, that is the correspondence of former deputy justice minister Łukasz Piebiak, but fails to see the "blameworthy comments of the judges it supports".