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POLAND: Sejm Protest Suspended
On Sunday, the protest in the Sejm was supsended. The participating parents of the disabled persons unanimously decided to leave the Sejm hallways. They argued that they were threatened by the security measures and restrictions enforced by the Sejm Speaker Marek Kuchciński, and that representatives of the government were unwilling to continue negotiations. Their movement within the building and the surrounding grounds was restricted, including access to toilets and lifts. Additionally, during the time of the protest, Kuchiński introduced new regulations which increased the scope of enforcement measures at the disposal of the Parliamentary Guard.
The protesters did not manage to negotiate the full spectrum of their demands. The PLN 500 monthly payout for care expenses was rejected by the government, while the protesters rejected the government’s counter-proposal of free personal hygiene products and rehabilitation (according to government calculations amounting to PLN 520 pcm). Still, the government agreed to level the disability pension, which was previously dependent on the age of the disabled person and/or the age at which the disability occurred.
The end of the protest cannot be considered a success for either side. Government and PiS party figures failed to portray themselves as skilled negotiators. According to polls, many believe that the government made little effort in meeting the needs of the disabled. On the other hand, the protesters leave unsatisfied with the outcome. PiS managed to wait out with further concessions, as the party feared a slippery slope of social groups demanding increased payouts. However, comments made by PiS MPs, the lack of engagement from Beata Szydło (the Deputy PM for Social Affairs) may have cost the party valuable votes. It remains to be seen how the 40 day-long protest will be used by the opposition in the upcoming election season.