Polish opposition ends blockade of parliament
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WARSAW, Poland — Poland's main opposition party ended its weekslong blockade of parliament on Thursday, stepping back in what had been a bitter standoff with the populist ruling party.
Lawmakers from Civic Platform and another centrist opposition party, Modern, had staged the blockade since Dec. 16, first over a since-abandoned plan to curb media access to parliament and then over the 2017 budget they say was passed illegally.
After ending the sit-in, Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna declared it at least a partial success because the protest pushed the ruling party to abandon the media restrictions.
Modern left the protest Wednesday, amid negotiations. Schetyna vowed to continue to oppose the budget vote in other ways and appealed to the president not to sign the spending plan.
However, some Civic Platform lawmakers said they were not fully satisfied.
"This protest did not meet all of our expectations. We were not able to save the budget," legislator Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska said. "But we have shown that we are tough opposition. We need to save energy for more battles."
The parliament convened briefly Thursday and Speaker Marek Kuchcinski announced a two-week recess until Jan. 25 to allow for a "deeper analysis" of the situation in parliament and of its regulations.
The developments appeared largely to be a victory for the ruling Law and Justice party, which insists the disputed budget vote was held legally and prevailed in its refusal to hold a repeat vote.
Law and Justice lawmakers passed the budget Dec.16 in a side room in parliament because the opposition had started its blockade in the plenary hall.
The underlying matter in the whole standoff has been the state of democracy and rule of law in Poland.
Nonaligned lawmaker Michal Kaminski told The Associated Press that the powerful Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has had a "short-term victory, but it does not serve Poland's democracy."
The protesting opposition parties say they are fighting a creeping authoritarianism by Kaczynski. The European Union also has expressed alarm over the state of the rule of law under Law and Justice.
Kaczynski insists that democracy is in good shape in Poland. He has accused the opposition of violating democratic norms by blocking the speaker's podium in parliament for nearly a month.
Kaczynski said it was "good" the parliament protest was over, but said he wants to see new regulations that would prevent such standoffs in the future. He did not specify the regulations.