* Ruling conservatives aim to reconvene parliament Wednesday
* Centrist opposition sticking to occupation of main chamber
* Divisions in opposition over steps to end stand-off
* European Commission sees threat to Polish democracy
By Lidia Kelly
WARSAW, Jan 11 Poland is poised for a
parliamentary showdown on Wednesday when lawmakers convene for
the first time this year after the centrist opposition rebuffed
calls to end a blockade over media rights and the 2017 budget
Moves by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to
curb the number of journalists in parliament and their right to
record proceedings drove opposition lawmakers to start a sit-in
in the main hall in mid-December.
Rejecting PiS appeals, the main opposition Civic Platform
said on Tuesday it would stick to its sit-in if the PiS tried to
relaunch parliament on Wednesday after the holiday recess, a
stance that could escalate the dispute.
PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna said his party would occupy "any
room in which (the PiS) will try to organise proceedings", after
rejecting an offer from PiS counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski to
try to find a compromise.
The crisis in the European Union member state began last
month when PiS was forced to move its 2017 budget vote to an
auxiliary chamber of parliament after opposition MPs blocked the
podium in the plenary hall in a protest at the ruling party's
move to curb media access to lawmakers.
How the proceedings will take place on Wednesday remains
unclear, but any showdown is likely to bring another scolding
from the European Commission, which last month gave Warsaw two
months to remove a "systemic threat to the rule of law".
Kaczynski's eurosceptic party enjoys strong, steady support
of around a third of Poles despite critics' accusation that PiS
policies are undermining democratic checks and balances and
tilting the formerly communist state towards authoritarian rule.
But critics say the opposition risks weakening its position
as it has failed to take a joint approach to the crisis and
lacks a coherent plan to defuse it.
Kaczynski said he expected a very heated session and warned
that "decisions" might be taken if parliament could not
reconvene. "We are operating from the position that the session
will take place," he told journalists. "And we will do
everything to ensure that even if there are problems."
He would not elaborate on what decisions the eurosceptic
PiS, which holds a majority in parliament, would take.
On Monday, the PiS announced it would reinstate full media
access to parliament to try to defuse the standoff, but a wary
PO said it was not yet ready to call off its blockade.
On Tuesday, Kaczynski said PiS MPs would consider some of
the budget amendments proposed by the opposition - but not
conduct a rerun of the budget vote.
The PO reiterated its demand for a rerun as a condition for
lifting its blockade, saying the December vote was illegal
because the PiS lacked the required quorum of lawmakers.
Kaczynski also held two meetings with opposition figures on
Tuesday but PO did not attend.
(Additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Pawel
Sobczak, Pawel Florkiewicz and Marcin Goclowski; editing by Mark