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The Latest: Poland’s senators defy EU, approve judicial laws

December 15, 2017

People protest during the "Chain of the lights" demonstration against judicial reforms, near the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Some thousands of protesters across Poland demonstrate against proposed new legislation that may give the ruling party control over courts and a key judicial body. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on the Polish government’s changes to the judicial system: (all times local):

9:35 p.m.

Poland’s senators have overwhelmingly approved legislation that gives the ruling party control over a top court and a key judicial body despite warnings from European Union leaders that the country could eventually be stripped of its EU voting rights.

The overwhelming support the senators gave Friday to changes to regulations for the Supreme Court and the National Council of the Judiciary bring Poland a step closer to an EU procedure that could potentially result in the unprecedented action.

EU officials could trigger the procedure on Wednesday, when they will be reviewing the new legislation to see if it is in line with European standards of the rule of law.

The regulations still need the president’s approval to become law, but that is expected to be granted.

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3:00 p.m.

Poland’s lawmakers have approved much-criticized new rules for local elections that opponents say undermine the independence of the electoral bodies.

The lower house of parliament voted late Thursday to approve the ruling party’s changes to the electoral law and to the State Electoral Commission, ahead of local elections next year.

Opposition lawmakers say the fairness of elections will now be questionable under the new rules.

The head of the electoral commission, Wojciech Hermelinski, said Friday he will seek a meeting with President Andrzej Duda to share his skepticism.

Under the new rules lawmakers are to choose seven out of nine commission members and the interior minister is to appoint election supervisors.

The bill needs Senate and presidential approval.

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