Polish ruling party wants commission to investigate Russian influence; critics fear a witch hunt

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s ruling party is calling for the creation of a commission it says would investigate Russian influence in Poland. Critics see it as creating a powerful and unconstitutional tool that will help the party retain power even if it loses elections this year.

Some fear that the right-wing ruling party could use the planned committee to oust opposition leader Donald Tusk from political life. Tusk represents the biggest threat to the ruling party, Law and Justice, as he seeks a third consecutive term in the vote expected in October.

Opposition senators dubbed it “Lex Tusk,” a Latin word for “right,” and it was rejected earlier this month in the upper house, where they have a majority.

He is now returning to the stronger lower house of parliament, the Sejm, where the ruling party can usually obtain a small majority. Voting is expected on Friday.

However, in an unexpected development, a parliamentary committee making recommendations for the vote voted on Wednesday to reject the Senate. It was a show of unity by the opposition, but lawmakers are not bound to reject the bill.

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The bill envisages the establishment of a state commission with prosecutorial and judicial powers. It can impose penalties, including a 10-year ban on officials from positions that direct the spending of public funds.

Critics say it violates the democratic separation of powers by giving the proposed commission judicial powers. According to the Polish Ombudsman, some of its provisions violate the constitution.

The proposal comes amid Russian aggression in Ukraine, Poland’s eastern neighbor, with both sides of the political spectrum accusing the other of allowing Kremlin influence in Poland, particularly through the energy sector.

This is a sensitive issue in a country that was under the control of the Soviet Union during the Cold War decades, but abolished communism in 1989.

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

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This period includes the governments led by Tusk’s centrist Civic Platform party between 2007 and 2015, and the current government party, Law and Justice, since 2015.

Law and Justice accuses Tusk of being too friendly with Russia during his years as prime minister and making gas deals favorable to Russia – before he went to Brussels to become president of the European Council.

Critics of the current Polish government accuse it of acting in ways that help Russia, such as by increasing coal imports from Russia ahead of a full-scale war in Ukraine, and of quarreling with Germany and other Western allies, leaving the West even more fractured as it faces with Russian aggression. in the region.

The idea of ​​creating a tool to investigate Russia’s influence on the Polish authorities was originally raised by Tusk himself last year.

He argued that it was important to investigate Russia’s alleged role in a wiretapping scandal that helped bring Law and Justice to power in 2015 and increase Russian coal imports to Poland.

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The ruling party started with the idea and announced its own plans for such a commission in November, but it appears to be turning it against Tusk.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the commission was needed to check the past and eliminate any remaining Russian influence for the future.

“This matter needs to be clarified very thoroughly. We have nothing to hide here, so the entire period up to now should be checked,” Morawiecki said.

However, many opposition figures fear a witch hunt against themselves, especially after right-wing lawmaker Janusz Kowalski admitted that he hopes to use the commission’s work to bring Donald Tusk to the State Tribunal.

Milosz Motyka, the spokesperson of the opposition Polish People’s Party, said: “this is just a whip against the opposition, based on fabricated accusations.”

If the bill is accepted by the parliament, it would be placed next to the head of state Andrzej Duda, whose task is to sign or veto the bills.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/polish-ruling-party-commission-investigate-russian-influence-critics-99564514