Polish president seeks experts' advice on contentious law targeting opposition

Aides to Poland's President Andrzej Duda say that his experts have begun analyzing a highly contentious law on Russia’s alleged influence in Poland before he decides whether to sign it

Via AP news wire
Saturday 27 May 2023 08:20 EDT

Aides to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said Saturday that his experts have begun analyzing a highly contentious law on Russia’s alleged influence in Poland, ahead of his decision on whether to sign it.

Parliament on Friday approved the law, proposed by the right-wing ruling party, that is seen as targeting the opposition. It may affect the outcome of fall parliamentary elections in which the ruling Law and Justice party is seeking a third term.

The law would establish a state commission for investigating Russian influence in Poland and on national security. It is generally seen as targeting former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now the leader of the main opposition Civic Coalition, at a time when early campaigning for the elections is underway.

The law cannot take effect without Duda’s approval, due within 21 days. It had caused an outcry, and the left-wing opposition has appealed to Duda to reject it, describing it as “shameful” and saying it may lead to wide-ranging witch hunts. Many independent experts say it violates the constitution.

An aide to Duda, Lukasz Rzepecki, said that “initial analyses have begun.”

“We will be taking a very, very careful look at the bill and we will be analyzing it from the legal point of view but also in relation to the current political situation,” Rzepecki said.

He was apparently referring to the war that neighboring Ukraine is fighting against Russia which has long been considered a security threat in the region. Warsaw's military and political support for Kyiv has drawn angry reactions from Moscow.

Rzepecki said Duda's team was aware of the “plenty of negative emotions” around the bill.

However, another aide, Pawel Szrot, said that Duda believes that “the more there is transparency in public life, the more explanations are offered on controversial matters, the better.”

Duda can either sign the bill, veto it or send it to the Constitutional Tribunal for review of whether it conforms with Poland's supreme law, the Constitution.

Duda won the 2015 presidential election as a Law and Justice candidate, and throughout his first five-year term his decisions were in line with the ruling party’s policies. Recently, though, he has questioned some legislation proposed by the party and directed some draft bills to the Constitutional Tribunal or vetoed them, as in the case of the 2021 media ownership law.

The law would establish a “State Commission for the Study of Russian Influences on the Internal Security of the Republic of Poland in the Years 2007-2022,” which would continue even if there is a change of power in the fall.

Critics say the investigative commission, with powers to ban people from public positions and to reverse administrative and business decisions, would violate citizens’ right to face an independent court and is a clear example of how Law and Justice has been using the law for its own ends ever since coming to power in 2015.

They view 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 the parliament in elections this fall.

Tusk is to lead a pro-democracy march in Warsaw on June 4, the anniversary of the partly free parliamentary elections in 1989 that led to the ouster of communism.

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