May 5, 2016 / 1:17 PM / 3 years ago

Polish finance minister calls for restraint in court row ahead of Moody's review

Andrzej Rzeplinski, head of Poland's Constitutional Court, is seen through a video camera viewfinder as he attends a session at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s finance minister has asked the constitutional court’s head to cool its dispute with the government until ratings agency Moody’s has made its review of the economy next week, a sign of concern that the row is hurting investors’ confidence.

Another agency, S&P, downgraded the country’s rating last January, saying that reforms carried out by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) conservatives had weakened the independence of the top court and other key institutions.

Moody’s, which is due to make its review on May 13, has said that Poland is facing heightened political risk as a result of the crisis, making its less attractive to foreign investors.

Government critics say the PiS party has undermined judges’ independence by enacting reform that increases the majority of judges needed to pass top court rulings and changing the order in which cases are heard. The court has ruled the reform as illegal.

In a letter to the court’s head, Andrzej Rzeplinski, published on the court’s website on Thursday, Finance Minister Pawel Szalamacha asked the judge to show restraint in the conflict until Moody’s decision on May 13.

“We will likely stick to our views as to the causes and the course of this disagreement, however I ask you to consider refraining until May 13 from public statements which could escalate it,” Szalamacha said.

Rzeplinski has been an outspoken critic of the government’s actions which he says amount to an assault on the court’s independence. The PiS has said Rzeplinski’s comments are politically-motivated, accusing him of supporting the former ruling centrists.

Even as Szalamacha’s letter was published, Poland’s zloty hit a three-month low against the euro on Thursday.

Financial markets say that the legal and political uncertainty generated by the conflict is certain to rebound on Poland’s image as a poster child for successful economic transformation.

Reporting by Wiktor Szary; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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