Polish President signed into law the act of parliament establishing a public commission to investigate Russian influence over Polish politics. Its widespread prerogatives are being criticized by the opposition, which accuses the government of meddling with elections and prosecuting their opponents without a court judgment. They claim it singles out their leader, Donald Tusk.
The law, proposed by the conservative Law and Justice party, was approved by the Polish parliament on Friday, as the country prepares for fall parliamentary elections.
According to experts, it violates the Polish Constitution, and the opposition has demanded that Duda rejects it.
The law would establish a state commission with prosecutorial and judicial powers to investigate Russian influence in Poland and its impact on national security. By releasing its findings on September 17, just weeks before the election (likely to be held in October or November), it will have the power to impose punishments such as barring officials for up to ten years from holding positions with control over the spending of public funds.
Duda justified his vote in favor of the bill by citing ongoing discussions about Russia’s political influence in the United States and some European nations.
He advocated the formation of a commission at the European Union level to examine Russia’s influence on European institutions and individual nations.
He stated that Poland will advocate for it at the next meeting of the European Council.
He emphasized the importance of openness in government and noted that Poland has a strong track record of public commissions investigating significant social and political issues.
To me, transparency in explaining crucial public and political issues is of paramount importance,” Duda said in his speech. The people of a country should judge for themselves how well their representatives are looking out for their best interests.
After a week from its publication, the bill will become law.
He addressed concerns raised by opponents by saying the bill does not give the commission the power to remove anyone from public or political life. In response to critics who claim the law is unconstitutional, Duda said he was also sending it to the Constitutional Tribunal to be reviewed for conformity with the supreme law.
According to US Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, Washington is “well aware of the concerns expressed by many regarding this law.” And we fully understand and appreciate President Duda’s decision to refer this bill to the Constitutional Tribunal to determine whether these concerns render the law unconstitutional.”
On TVN24, Brzezinski stated that the US government “shares concerns” about laws that limit Poles’ ability to vote for candidates of their choice.
The Polish opposition responded with harsh criticism.
“Mr. President, I would like to invite you to a public consultation on June 4,” Tusk tweeted to Duda before leading a Warsaw pro-democracy rally on Sunday. We’ll be visible from your palace windows.”
Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a member of Tusk’s Civic Coalition, tweeted, “They (the ruling party) want to investigate alleged “Russian influences” using a type of “law” that would not embarrass Moscow. And the president signs it.”
More proof that removing this team from power in Poland would be the best way to protect Poland from “Russian influences.” Let’s get it done (at the polls) this fall, Trzaskowski tweeted.
However, government spokesman Piotr Mueller said that the commission’s decisions can be appealed to a court and wouldn’t take effect until there is a court verdict.
Tusk, a former prime minister and the current head of the main opposition Civic Coalition, is widely believed to be the intended target of the attack, which comes as early election campaigning is getting underway.