Polish lawmakers approve controversial law targeting opposition
Warsaw, Poland — Polish lawmakers on Friday approved a controversial bill on alleged Russian influence in Poland, which targets the opposition and could affect the outcome of the fall parliamentary elections.
The new law would establish a state commission to investigate Russian influences in Poland. It is widely seen as targeting former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now the main opposition leader of the Civic Coalition, at a time when the preliminary campaign for the autumn elections 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 to be approved by President Andrzej Duda to come into effect. It was unclear if Duda would approve of it.
Tusk, who is not a member of parliament, was present in the chamber during the vote.
He later said that those who voted for the law were “cowards” who “broken parliamentary good manners and fundamental principles of democracy, for fear of losing their power, for fear of the people, for fear of the responsibility (they should face) after losing 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 1989 elections that led to the ousting of Communists from the power in Poland.
Critics say the bill violates Poland’s constitution and a citizen’s right to face an independent tribunal, and is a clear example of how the ruling Law and Justice party has been using the law for its own ends since coming to power. in 2015.
They see the bill, dubbed ‘Lex Tusk’, as an attempt to create a powerful and unconstitutional tool that would help Law and Justice continue to wield power even if it loses control of parliament in elections this fall.
“This regulation violates all constitutional foundations,” said Slawomir Patyra, a constitutional expert at Marie Sklodowska-Curie University in Lublin.
Patyra said the proposed commission would investigate and prosecute “anyone who criticizes the current political or economic order” because the definition of “Russian influences” is vague.
Law and Justice accuses Tusk of having been too friendly towards Russia as prime minister between 2007 and 2014 and of having concluded gas agreements favorable to Russia before going to Brussels to be president of the European Council between 2014 and 2019.
Opposition senator Krzysztof Brejza said the new law is a “Soviet-style idea born out of the mentality of (law and justice leader) Jaroslaw Kaczynski and an attempt to mount 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 prosecutor and judge. He could impose penalties, including 10-year bans on postal officials who control the spending of public funds.
The lower house also debated another bill proposed by the ruling party that lowers the quorum requirement of the Constitutional Court. It aims to speed up work on legislation stalled by divisions within the court, which has been brought under political scrutiny. Among those laws are new regulations that could unlock massive EU funds that Brussels froze amid the rule of law dispute with Warsaw.
At stake is around 35 billion euros ($37 billion) in EU grants and loans as the Polish government continues to spend huge sums on social grants, pensions and weapons amid war in neighboring Ukraine continues.
A vote was postponed until the next parliamentary session.
During heated debates in parliament earlier this week, one of the ruling party’s top lawmakers, Tadeusz Cymanski, said the bill lowering the quorum of the Constitutional Court is crucial because the party wants to “force the court …to make a certain decision awaiting us. »
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. Both bills could add to the divide.