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Polish president seeks experts’ advice on contentious law targeting opposition

Polish president seeks experts' advice on contentious law targeting opposition

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

Parliament on Friday approved a law proposed by the right-wing ruling party, which is seen as targeting the opposition. This may affect the outcome of the autumn parliamentary elections, in which the ruling Pravo i Pravda party is seeking a third mandate.

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

The law cannot enter into force without Duda’s approval, which is due within 21 days. This sparked an outcry, with the left-wing opposition urging Duda to reject it, describing it as a “disgrace” and saying it could lead to widespread witch-hunts. Many independent experts say this violates the constitution.

Duda’s assistant Lukasz Rzepecki said that “initial analyzes have begun.”

“We will very, very carefully consider the bill and we will analyze it from a legal point of view, but also in relation to the current political situation,” said Rzepecki.

He was apparently referring to the war that neighboring Ukraine is waging against Russia, which has long been seen as a security threat in the region. Warsaw’s military and political support for Kiev provoked angry reactions from Moscow.

Rzepecki said that Duda’s team is aware of “a lot of negative emotions” surrounding this law.

But another aide, Pawel Szrot, said Duda believed that “the more transparency there is in public life, the more explanations offered on controversial issues, the better.”

Duda can either sign the bill, veto it, or send it to the Constitutional Court to check whether it complies with Poland’s supreme law, the Constitution.

Duda won the 2015 presidential election as a Pravo i Pravda candidate, and during his first five-year term, his decisions were in line with the policies of the ruling party. Recently, however, he has questioned some laws proposed by the party and referred some bills to the Constitutional Court 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 government in the fall.

Critics say the commission of inquiry, with powers to ban people from public office and overturn administrative and business decisions, would violate citizens’ right to face an independent court and is a clear example of how law and justice have used the law for their 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 hold sway even if they lose control of parliament in elections this fall.

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

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