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Marcin Horała on the proceedings in the Column Hall: MPs “could vote”. They couldn’t

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PiS politicians are outraged that the budget law was passed without the presence of Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik in the Sejm. In response, politicians from the ruling coalition recall how PiS did not allow them to vote on the budget in 2016. Marcin Horała claims that opposition MPs “could vote” then. First of all, they couldn’t. Secondly, both situations are legally incomparable.

In program “7. Day of the week on Radio Zet” On February 4, politicians discussed the decision of President Andrzej Duda, who signed three bills – including the budget for 2024 – but at the same time referred them under the post-control procedure to the Constitutional Tribunal. The president justified the application to the Constitutional Tribunal with doubts related to the correctness of the procedure for adopting these laws, specifically: “the inability of MPs Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik to participate in the work of the Sejm on these laws.”

In this context, Polish 2050 MP Joanna Mucha, participating in the discussion on Radio Zet, recalled that “the president also signed the budget that was adopted in the Column Hall.” This concerns the events of December 16, 2016, when, after the rostrum in the plenary hall was blocked by opposition MPs, the Sejm session was moved to the Column Hall – and the budget bill was passed there. However, only MPs from the PiS club participated in the deliberations.

However, presidential minister Wojciech Kolarski compared those events with: passing this year’s budget act (without Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik). “This is not an analogous situation. Of course it is not analogous,” Kolarski said, but when the host of the program reminded him that opposition politicians were not allowed into the hall in 2016, Kolarski replied: “There, the MPs did not take part in the vote“.

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The same thing was discussed on the same day in the “Kawa na ławę” program on TVN24 – and there, in turn, PiS MP Marcin Horała stated that opposition MPs in the Column Hall in 2016 “they could vote“.”Of course they could. I sat there, I saw” – he insisted. Katarzyna Lubnauer, an MP from the Civic Coalition, reacted to this: “First of all, [posłowie] they couldn’t vote. Secondly, they could not submit a formal application. Third, it is not certain whether there was a quorum. What did the president do then? He didn’t do anything, he thought everything was fine.

Neither Minister Kolarski nor MP Horała are right: the first – claiming that the opposition MPs “did not take part in the vote” (i.e. of their own will), the second – claiming that they could have voted. We recall the sequence of events from December 16, 2016 at Wiejska Street.

Adoption of the budget in the Sejm Column Hall. Opposition MPs were prevented from voting

Controversial events took place in the Sejm on December 16, 2016, during work on the draft budget for 2017. There was a heated discussion in the lower house about the planned ones changes in the rules of work of journalists in the Sejm. After 3 p.m., PO MP Michał Szczerba wanted to submit an amendment regarding budget support for Sinfonia Varsovia. When he stood at the podium, he placed a piece of paper in front of him with the inscription: “#FreeMediawSejmie”. Marshal Kuchciński assessed that Szczerba was disturbing the proceedings and informed the MP about it twice. “Dear Mr. Marshal! Music soothes customs. That’s why Warsaw is…” – the MP started to say, but the Marshal turned off his microphone and informed him about exclusion from the meeting and announced a break.

Page 62 of the parliamentary transcript from the session of December 16, 2016, which describes the exclusion of Michał Szczerba from the sessionSejm.gov.pl

During the break, opposition MPs – mainly Civic Platform and Nowoczesna – surrounded the Sejm rostrum and the dais where the chair of the Speaker of the Sejm is located. They demanded that MP Szczerba be reinstated to participate in the proceedings. They chanted slogans such as “democracy” and “free media” and sang the Polish anthem twice. Despite the protest, Marshal Kuchciński continued the proceedings, in the meantime ordering breaks and leaving the Sejm hall several times. Ultimately, Kuchciński announced a break due to lack of quorum and announced the convening of the Seniors’ Convention, which was to be held at 4:45 p.m., but it was not convened.

PiS politicians signaled that they would like to vote on the budget despite the blockade of the Sejm rostrum. According to the MPs of this party with whom interviewed by the Polish Press Agency, President Kaczyński allegedly said that “there is no possibility of going back” and “we have to win today.” After 8 p.m., PiS MPs and members of the government left the plenary hall and went to the Column Hall, where first a meeting of the Law and Justice club was held, and then the interrupted proceedings of the chamber continued.

At that time, some opposition MPs were still at the podium, but others were already trying to get to the Hall of Columns – to no avail. The back of the room was filled with rows of chairs on which PiS MPs were sitting, making it impossible to move deeper into the room. There were doubts whether there was actually a quorum in the room during the votes. Moreover, there was no possibility of electronic voting in the hall and votes were counted manually.

PO MP Sławomir Nitras in front of the Column Hall Photo from December 16, 2016Marcin Obara /PAP

“The Sejm is debating illegally,” MP Agnieszka Pomaska ​​(PO) told journalists. She pointed out that she was not allowed to speak. MP Cezary Tomczyk (PO), in turn, said that it was impossible to determine whether there was a quorum in the room. He emphasized that no formal motions could be submitted because access to the presidential table and Marshal Kuchciński was not possible. Tomczyk published a video on Twitter showing PiS MPs preventing him from reaching the marshal. You can also see the MP trying to get through the chairs and turning to the ruling party MP: “Mr. MP, I would like to go through and submit a formal motion.” The then MP Andrzej Melak replied: “There is no passage, get out of here.”

Opposition MPs later wanted to get to the Hall of Columns through another corridor and side entrances, but the passage was blocked by the Marshal’s Guard. The guards did not allow parliamentarians to pass, even though they showed their parliamentary ID cards. One of the guards confirmed to MP Pomaska ​​that the recommendation not to admit the MPs was issued by the Speaker of the Sejm. “There is a recommendation from the Marshal not to let MPs through this entrance, after entering the chamber, PiS MPs block access to that entrance, you cannot ask questions, you cannot submit a formal request,” Tomczyk commented then.

The deputies could not get to the Hall of Columns. The Marshal’s Guard blocked the entrance. Recorded from December 16, 2016TVN24

Late in the evening, the budget for 2017 was adopted in the Column Hall. The room was divided into sectors, voting was done manually, and the votes were counted by MPs and secretaries. On February 1, 2024, MP Agnieszka Pomaska ​​showed the record of this vote. It shows that 236 MPs took part in the vote, of which 234 supported the project and two voted against.

The column of cars with politicians of the ruling party, including the then Prime Minister Beata Szydło and the president of PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, left the Sejm only before 3 a.m. Politicians were protected by a line of police.

Politicians of the Civic Platform, Nowoczesna and the Polish People’s Party they demanded from the Speaker of the Sejmto reconvene the Sejm session for December 20. However, this did not happen. According to the opposition, the deliberations on December 16 in the Hall of Columns were illegal. It was argued that the required quorum had not been gathered and it was pointed out that it was not known who took part in the voting. But Marshal Kuchciński argued that everything took place in accordance with the law and there was no need to repeat the meeting. “The number of deputies required by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland took part in all votes held in the Sejm Column Hall on December 16, 2016,” he assured in a letter addressed to the president.

27/12/2016 |  Unclear sector division, missing voices in recordings.  What did the voting look like in the Column Hall?

Unclear sector division, missing voices in recordings. What did the voting look like in the Column Hall? Material of “Fakty” TVN from December 27, 2016“Fakty” TVN

Kamiński and Wąsik did not vote because they are not MPs

The situation in the Sejm was completely different when voting on the budget act for 2024. Yes, Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik were not present – but not because they were not allowed into the meeting room as MPs. They were in prison at the time. On December 20, 2023, Kamiński and Wąsik were legally sentenced to two years of imprisonment – former heads of the Central Anticorruption Bureau were found guilty in connection with operational activities during the so-called land scandal. By court decision, both of them were also banned from holding public positions for five years.

READ MORE: Kamiński and Wąsik “convicted for fighting corruption”. PiS false narrative

A final conviction means the loss of parliamentary seats. December 21, Marshal of the Sejm Szymon Hołownia signed the decision to extinguish them. Both politicians have withdrawn from this decision they appealed to the Supreme Court. They filed appeals both in the Chancellery of the Sejm and directly in the Supreme Court. The appeals submitted to the Sejm were forwarded by the Marshal to the Chamber of Labor and Social Insurance of the Supreme Court.

Appeals filed independently by former MPs were sent to the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs – which the Court of Justice of the European Union had previously stated was “not an independent and impartial court”. On January 4, this chamber consisted of three members repealed the decision of the Speaker of the Sejm regarding the declaration of expiry of Wąsik’s mandate. One day later she spent an identical decision in the Kamiński case.

On January 10, a different decision in the Kamiński case was issued by the Chamber of Labor – did not take into account his appeal. This Chamber it didn’t occupy the case of Maciej Wąsik.

In the meantime, on January 9, Kamiński with Wąsik they were detained by the police in the Presidential Palace, they went to remand center in Warsawand then to prisons in Radom and Przytuły Stare. They spent two weeks there, left on January 23, on the day of his pardon by President Andrzej Duda. Their party colleagues maintain that Kamiński and Wąsik are MPs. On February 7, surrounded by other PiS MPs, both PiS politicians were killed by force they tried to enter the 5th session of the Sejm of the 10th termwhich was thwarted by the Marshal’s Guard.

Main photo source: PAP/Tomasz Gzell

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