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POLAND: Sejm Rules of Procedure

On Tuesday, the Speaker of the Sejm Elżbieta Witek called an assembly of the chamber’s Council of Seniors and the Presidium of the Sejm. The Council of Seniors is a guidance body of the Sejm. Its opinions, however, are not legally binding. The Council is supposed to ensure cooperation between parties.

The agenda of the meeting focused on the mode of the Sejm’s operation in regard to the COVID-19 epidemic. During the State of Epidemic, only small representations of parliamentary groupings will be allowed to physically participate in Sejm assemblies. The remaining MPs will participate remotely. All MPs will be provided with instructions on how to participate in the assembly remotely. This is supposed to be facilitated by a special online communicator; a unique link allowing MPs to prove their identity through an SMS confirmation. Reporters will be allowed to view the assembly, but free movement on the premises of the Parliament and interviews with politicians will be prohibited.

The session on Friday has been called to vote on the special-purpose bills which are a part of the regulatory Anti-Crisis Shield, proposed by the government to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. The formula of the meeting has been a matter of heated political discussion between political parties. Previous potential scenarios, to avoid infections among parliamentarians, involved moving the Sejm session to the National Stadium. The ruling PiS party argues that the remote access solution is meant to prevent the spread of the virus. Some opposition politicians have criticized the ruling party’s move, calling it unconstitutional and underlining that the mode of operation of the Sejm cannot be changed through a new procedure.

The Sejm decision does not affect the functioning of the Senate. While the Upper Chamber may decide to take a similar approach, it will come as a separate decision.