Poland: Duda signs controversial influence law

Status: 05/29/2023 2:30 p.m

Poland’s President Duda has signed a law on Russian influence. Critics believe it is aimed at opposition leader Tusk. Political opponents of the government could in future be excluded from office without a court order.

In Poland, President Andrzej Duda has signed a controversial law that would set up a commission of inquiry into possible Russian influence. According to critics, it should serve to keep opponents of the ruling PiS party out of politics. Politicians could thus in future be excluded from public office without a court order.

According to the draft, the commission is to determine for the period from 2007 – after the current governing PiS was voted out – whether there were Russian influences on Polish politics. This includes, for example, entering into contracts that could favor Russian influence and passing on relevant information to third parties. If necessary, those responsible can then be de facto politically neutralized – without court proceedings, without the possibility of appeal and without the obligation to justify them to third parties.

The EU is currently blocking the payment of billions to Poland and is insisting on comprehensive reforms.

Opposition speaks of “Lex Tusk”

Critics accuse the national-conservative government of aiming with the law a few months before the election to discredit opposition leader Donald Tusk – the opposition even speaks of a “Lex Tusk”. The former head of government is the only serious opponent of the PiS. The ruling party accuses him of being too soft on Russia when he was prime minister from 2007 to 2014. He had agreed gas deals that would have given Russia advantages.

The law would also be suitable to exclude other political opponents of the ruling party from elections. Among other things, the Commission should be able to block officials from holding an office for a period of up to ten years if this office also involves control over public funds. A few comments in the Polish media are already talking about the beginning of a dictatorship.

According to experts, the draft violates the constitution. The opposition had asked Duda to reject him. The President justified the signing by saying that Russia’s influence on politics is also being discussed in the USA and in some other countries in Europe.

Commission is to be appointed by the Sejm

The commission is to be composed of nine people appointed by the lower house of the Polish parliament, the Sejm. The PiS has the majority there.

Duda himself said that Russian influence had caused much turbulence, the result of which was, among other things, the war of aggression against Ukraine and the energy problems in Europe. “There is therefore no doubt that this needs to be clarified.” At the same time, he will instruct the constitutional court to examine the law.

With information from Martin Adam, ARD Studio Warsaw

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