Polish Lawmakers Hope to Investigate Russian Influence in Moving Opponents
Polish lawmakers on Friday approved a controversial bill on alleged Russian influence in Poland that targets the opposition and could influence the outcome of the fall parliamentary elections.
The new law provides for the creation of a state commission of inquiry Russian influences in Poland. It is generally believed to be targeting former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now the main leader of the opposition Civic Coalition, as the fall election campaign is underway.
The lower house, or Sejm, voted 234 to 219, with one abstention, to approve the law proposed by the right-wing ruling party. It still needs President Andrzej Duda’s approval to come into effect. It was unclear whether Duda would approve of this.
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Tusk, who is not a member of parliament, was present in the hall during the vote.
He later said that those who voted for the law were “cowards” who “violated good parliamentary manners and the fundamental principles of democracy for fear of losing their power, for fear of the people, for fear of responsibility (they must face) after they lose the election.”
He said the opposition had a strategy ready for the commission and called on Poles to march with him in pro-democracy marches on June 4, the anniversary of the partially free elections in 1989 that ousted the communists from power in Poland.
Critics say the bill violates the Polish constitution and the citizen’s right to be brought before an independent tribunal, and that it is a clear example of how the ruling Law and Justice party has used the law to its advantage since coming to power. in 2015.
They see the bill, dubbed Lex Tusk, as an attempt to create a powerful and unconstitutional tool that will help Law and Justice retain power even if it loses control of parliament in this fall’s elections.
“This ruling violates all constitutional foundations,” said Slavomir Patyra, a constitutional expert at the Maria Skłodowska-Curie University in Lublin.
Patira said the proposed commission would investigate and prosecute “anyone who criticizes the current political or economic order” because the definition of “Russian influence” is vague.
Law and Justice accuses Tusk of being too friendly to Russia as prime minister between 2007 and 2014 and making gas deals favorable to Russia before he traveled to Brussels to become president European Council in the period 2014-19
Opposition Senator Krzysztof Brejza said the new law is “a Soviet-style idea stemming from the mentality of (leader of law and justice) Jarosław Kaczynski and an attempt to organize a witch hunt against Donald Tusk and eliminate him” from Polish politics.
Tusk and Kaczynski are longtime political rivals.
The bill provides for the creation of a state commission with the powers of a prosecutor and a judge. It can impose penalties, including a 10-year suspension of officials from positions that control the spending of public funds.
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The lower house also debated another bill proposed by the ruling party that lowers the required quorum of the Constitutional Court. It is designed to speed up work on legislation that is stalled by disagreements within a politically controlled court. Among those laws are new rules that could unlock huge EU funds that Brussels has frozen amid the conflict with Warsaw over the rule of law.
Around 35 billion euros ($37 billion) in EU grants and loans are at stake as the Polish government continues to spend huge sums on social benefits, pensions and weapons as the war in neighboring Ukraine continues.
The vote was moved to the next session of Parliament.
During a heated debate in parliament earlier this week, Tadeusz Cymanski, one of the ruling party’s key MPs, said the bill to lower the quorum of the Constitutional Court was critical as the party wants to “force the tribunal … to make a certain decision, which we are still waiting for” .
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The government’s policies, especially in the judiciary, have already put Warsaw at odds with the EU, which says it goes against the principles of the rule of law and democracy. Two bills could deepen the split.