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European politics

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We haven't got a separate thread for European politics yet, so I thought I'd start one so we can discuss whatever is going on politically on this side of the pond.

I'll start with today's big news from Italy:

Italian PM Conte resigns


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced his resignation.

Conte's move preempted a confidence vote that had been expected to take place on Tuesday, 12 days after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called for such a motion. Before announcing his resignation, Conte said Salvini's decision "has major consequences on the country and its economy." "This government ends here," Conte said.

The prime minister's resignation will not automatically trigger a snap election. It is now up to President Sergio Mattarella to decide on the way forward.

Salvini's far-right League is calling for new elections, a request backed by Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the far-right Brothers of Italy party.

Meanwhile, the 5Stars — the League's current coalition partners — are reported to be in talks with the center-left Democratic Party to potentially form a new government. Such a tie-up would effectively oust Salvini's party from government.

If an alternative parliamentary majority becomes a possibility, Mattarella could decide to install a new government without fresh elections. The president could also opt for a caretaker government to pass crucial budget legislation if a majority of lawmakers are willing to back such option.

Perhaps @laPapessaGiovanna can weigh in with more insight.

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Poland had its own resignation after an alleged smear campaign scandal today. Łukasz Piebiak, the deputy Justice Minister (allegedly) involved in a smear campaign meant to discredit judges who were critical of the government's judicial reforms.

A little background: The ruling party in Poland is the rightwing nationalist PiS. Ever since they won the elections in 2015, they have been taking controversial measures that experts say could damage equality and separation of powers. Some judges are saying they are being held in a stranglehold; anyone that speaks out against the government's measures can be prosecuted in the disciplinary courts. The government is denying this, claiming only judges who act 'unprofessionally' or conduct 'politics' in the courtroom, could be prosecuted.

Wikipedia tells us: 

From the end of 2015, the Polish government became subject to international criticism over its media and judiciary changes and the European Commission began action against Poland in January 2016. On 20 December 2017, the European Commission triggered Article 7 for the first time in relation to Polish judicial reforms because, in the view of the Commission, they remove the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. "After two years, the Commission can only conclude that there is now a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law," Vice President Frans Timmermans added. 

Deputy minister who allegedly organised smear campaign resigns


The Deputy Justice Minister Łukasz Piebiak who was reportedly behind a smear campaign against judges who criticised the government’s judicial reforms resigns.

According to the Onet website, the Deputy Justice Minister Łukasz Piebiak was involved in encouraging an internet smear campaign against judges who criticised and campaigned against the government’s judicial reforms. PM Mateusz Morawiecki has demanded that the justice minister provides a full explanation on Tuesday. 

Following media reports on the matter, Łukasz Piebiak announced his resignation from office on Tuesday afternoon. 

“Feeling responsible for the success of the reforms to which I have dedicated four years of hard work I resign from the office of Undersecretary of State at the Justice Ministry,” Mr Piebiak wrote in a statement. 

He also declared that he is determined to defend his good name for which he worked his whole life. “I will file a lawsuit against Onet which spreads allegations, based on unreliable sources.” 

Targeting opponents of judicial reform 

Onet describes how one of the internet campaigns launched by a pro-government internet activist was an attack on the head of the “Iustitia” association, Prof. Krystian Markiewicz, that featured gossip about his personal life and intimate relations, including the ways in which the academic had built his position within the judicial community. 

According to the website, the deputy minister received documents from a court employee and communicated extensively with her on ways to attack the judges from the “Iustitia” association on social media. 

When the court employee – who provided the documents and offered to use them online – said that she hoped she would not go to jail, the minister is accused of having written to her saying “we don’t put people in jail for doing good.” 

The deputy minister is also alleged to have sent home address details of Judge Markiewicz to the court employee. 

The revelations also include the deputy minister praising one of the actions against another judge (also based around details of the judge’s personal life) saying: “Super, just sending it to my boss so that he too can be pleased”. In this way, the deputy minister implicates Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. 

The court employee concerned has told the website that she is “very ashamed”: of what she did and that she could have affected the lives of at least 20 judges. Mr Piebiak has admitted he knows the court employee but does not remember any contacts with her in regard to Prof. Markiewicz and has no wish to comment on private correspondence. 

PM and Deputy PM react 

Deputy PM and Higher Education Minister Jarosław Gowin, interviewed on commercial TVN24 demanded a reaction from the Justice Ministry. He said that “if the article in Onet.pl is confirmed and describes a process of instigating hate against judges, then this behaviour is unacceptable for an official or from a human point of view”. 

PM Mateusz Moarwiecki speaking on Polish Radio demanded an explanation from the Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. He said he wanted to hear from all sides before making any decisions. 

Sheriff Ziobro 

Zbigniew Ziobro has been one of the most visible and controversial ministers of this Law and Justice (PiS) government. He has in the past been a popular face of the reforms aimed at tightening up the criminal code and combating corruption, ever since he was justice minister in the previous PiS led government (2005-2007). 

Mr Ziobro fell out with the ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński after PiS lost the general election in 2011 and formed his own party Solidarity Poland. That party has since 2014 been in alliance with PiS and Mr Ziobro has made his peace with the ruling party leader and became Justice Minister again following the right’s victory in 2015. 


This is a most unwelcome development for the ruling party. It has been arguing that the judicial reforms are not a threat to judicial independence. But if it is proved that state officials are engaging in smear campaigns against judges critical of the reforms that argument will be harder to make. 

Poland has faced concerted criticism of its judicial reforms for allegedly threatening judicial independence from the EC and the country has faced legal action before the ECJ on aspects of the judicial reform. Any scandal that confirms that judges are under pressure from the government will not help with that international angle either. 

In a free society, judges are not above the law or immune from criticism. But it is one thing to criticise them for their actions in court, to shed light on any financial or criminal wrong-doing by them. But to attack them on social media over their personal lives will be considered below the belt by most observers. For any state official to be in any way encouraging this can only be considered a serious error of judgement at the very least. 

An election is now less than two months away. The ruling party promised judicial reform and it has been active in the sector. They have achieved a tightening up of the law on alimony, parental rights and the penal code. They have also introduced the principle of random allocation of cases to judges to reduce the powers of the heads of district courts and introduced a disciplinary chamber in the Supreme Court to tackle abuse of powers by judges. 

However, the reforms to the National Judicial Council (it is now elected by Parliament), stacking the Constitutional Court with its own nominees and the attempt at forcing Supreme Court judges to resign (an attempt which has been overturned by EC and ECJ actions) has created enormous tension bordering on conflict between the government and the judiciary. 

The reforms are still comparatively new, but voters tend to be restless. They will ask whether anything has been done to reduce the time court cases take and improve access for the disadvantaged to adequate legal representation. They will care much less about esoteric discussions about constitutionality of actions, the selection of judges for senior posts or indeed the personal feelings of judges. 

Mr Ziobro remains an important politician within the ruling PiS led United Right alliance. Any fall from grace by him could upset the right’s carefully constructed balance. That would not be welcome just before a general election.


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5 hours ago, fraurosena said:

Conte's move preempted a confidence vote that had been expected to take place on Tuesday, 12 days after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called for such a motion.

A correction, Salvini withdrew the motion of no confidence vote before the Parliament was set to vote. After that Conte said that since his ally Salvini didn't have the nerve to take responsibility for his own actions then he had to take responsibility in his place. And then resigned.

Anyway we are going through political chaos, as always. Personally, I don't care too much , there's nothing new, we always live in a perennial political turmoil and to be honest I prefer that things stay this way if the alternative is a slippery slope to fascism.

ETA I have more thoughts but I woke up really early this morning and now I am too tired to put them into words. Maybe @Italiangirl @ItalianSceptic and @upkacrane have more to say.

ETA2 luckily I avoided all the footage of Salvini's speech because I would have barfed at him invoking the immaculate heart of the Virgin Mary. Fuck, I am barfing just thinking about it.

Edited by laPapessaGiovanna

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