Polish lawmakers on Friday approved a contentious bill on alleged Russian influence in Poland, which targets the opposition and could affect the outcome of autumn parliamentary elections.
The new law would establish a state commission to investigate Russian influences in Poland. It is generally seen as targeting former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now the main leader of the opposition Civic Coalition, at a time when early campaigning for the autumn election is underway.
The lower house, or Sejm, voted 234-219 with one abstention to pass the law proposed by the ruling right-wing party. It still needs President Andrzej Duda’s approval to take effect. It was unclear whether Dudley would approve.
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Tusk, who is not a parliamentarian, was present in the chamber during the vote.
He later said that those who voted for the law were “cowards” who “violated good parliamentary customs and the fundamental principles of democracy, for fear of losing power, for fear of the people, for fear of responsibility (they should face) after losing the elections.”
He said the opposition had a strategy ready for the commission and urged Poles to join him in the pro-democracy marches on June 4, the anniversary of the partially free elections in 1989 that brought the Communists from power in Poland.
Critics say the bill violates Poland’s constitution and a citizen’s right to face an independent court, and that it is a clear example of how the ruling party, Law and Justice, has used the law for its own ends since who came to power. in 2015.
They see the bill, dubbed “Lex Tusk”, as an attempt to create a powerful, unconstitutional tool that would help law and justice continue to wield power even if it loses control of parliament in this autumn’s election.
“This regulation violates all constitutional foundations,” said Slawomir Patyra, an expert on the constitution 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 with Russia as Prime Minister between 2007-14 and making Russia-friendly gas deals before heading to Brussels to be the President of the European Council between 2014-19.
Opposition senator Krzysztof Brejza said the new law is a “Soviet-style idea stemming from the mentality of (Law and Justice leader) Jaroslaw Kaczynski and an attempt to organize a witch hunt against Donald Tusk and eliminate him” from EU politics. Poland.
Tusk and Kaczynski are longtime political rivals.
The bill provides for the creation of a state commission with powers of attorney and judge. It could impose punishments, including a 10-year ban on officials in positions that control the spending of public funds.
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The Chamber of Deputies also debated another bill proposed by the ruling party that reduces the required quorum of the Constitutional Court. The aim is to speed up work on legislation stalled by divisions within the court, which has been brought under political control. Among those laws are new regulations that could unlock huge EU funds that Brussels has frozen amid the rule of law conflict with Warsaw.
At stake is around 35 billion euros ($37 billion) in EU grants and loans, as Poland’s government continues to spend large sums on social bonuses, pensions and weapons as the war in neighboring Ukraine rages on.
The vote was postponed to the next session of parliament.
During heated debates in parliament earlier this week, one of the ruling party’s top legislators, Tadeusz Cymanski, said the bill reducing the Constitutional Court’s quorum is crucial because the party wants to “force the court… they’re waiting. “
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Government policies, especially in the judicial system, have already put Warsaw at odds with the EU, which it says go against the principles of the rule of law and democracy. The two bills could widen the divide.