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Polish top senator slams plan for Russian influence probe, warns of ‘creeping coup’

29.05.2023 19:30
Poland's upper-house Speaker has said that a new law establishing a state commission for investigating alleged Russian influence in Polish politics marks the beginning of a “creeping coup” in his country.
Tomasz Grodzki.
Tomasz Grodzki.PAP/Marcin Bielecki

Tomasz Grodzki made the remark via Twitter on Monday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

He was tweeting after Poland's President Andrzej Duda said he had decided to sign a disputed measure to establish a state commission for investigating alleged Russian influence in Polish politics, and called for a similar body to be created “at the European level.”

The measure, proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, passed parliament on Friday on a final vote of 234 to 219, with one abstention, according to news outlets.

The president, who is an ally of Poland's conservative government, said he had asked Prime Minister Morawiecki to “raise the issue at the European Council,” which brings together the European Union’s 27 national leaders.

‘Creeping coup

Following the president’s decision to approve the Russian influence probe, Grodzki, who is Speaker of the Polish Senate, said in a Twitter post: “The Senate rejected the bill on the Russian influence probe due to its unconstitutional character. The president, who should be the guardian of the constitution, signed this bill into law. It’s an outrageous and disgraceful decision, marking the beginning of a creeping coup d'état and undermining democratic principles.”

‘Those who seek to deprive us of democracy must be stopped

Meanwhile, Szymon Hołownia, who leads the opposition centre-right Poland 2050 grouping, said that his group would join a political march to be held in Warsaw on June 4 under the leadership of former Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Tusk is the leader of the country's largest opposition grouping, the Civic Coalition, and the main target of the Russian influence probe, according to opposition politicians. 

Hołownia told reporters in parliament on Monday: “The June 4 march in Warsaw is no longer a demonstration by one political party. As of today, it’s about national security. It’s a meeting, a rally, that will send a clear message that would-be dictators, those who seek to deprive us of democracy, must be stopped in Poland.”

Hołownia later tweeted: “The president seriously weakened our country today, both internally and externally. Six months before the elections, amid a war just beyond our border, he has decided to crank up a civil war in Poland.”

Opposition march in Warsaw on June 4 'against high prices, thievery and lies'

Meanwhile, Tusk wrote on Twitter, addressing Duda: “Mr President, I would like to invite you to a social consultation on June 4. We’ll be well-heard and clearly visible from your palace.”

In mid-April, Tusk encouraged “everyone to join a march in Warsaw on June 4, at high noon,” to "stand against high prices, thievery and lies, and in favour of free elections and a democratic, European Poland,” the PAP news agency reported.

Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, a leading Civic Coalition politician, said in a tweet: “They want to investigate alleged ‘Russian influence’ on the basis of a ‘law’ that wouldn’t be out of place in Moscow. And the president has signed it into effect.”

Trzaskowski added: “This is further proof that the best antidote to ‘Russian influence’ in Poland will be the removal of this group from power. Let’s do it this autumn.”

Party refuses to join probe: 'It’s a kangaroo court'

Meanwhile, Miłosz Motyka, a spokesman for the opposition rural-based Polish People’s Party (PSL), told the PAP news agency that his grouping would not field any candidates for membership of the new “state commission for investigating Russian influence” in Polish politics.

Motyka said: “We won’t be putting forward any candidates for membership of the commission for investigating Russian influence, because it’s an illegal body and the results of its work cannot be legally implemented. It’s a kangaroo court and we do not participate in such bodies.”

Probe ‘justified on grounds of national security’: ruling party 

Responding to the opposition’s criticism of the planned probe, ruling party spokesman Rafał Bochenek told the PAP news agency: “Yet again, an important policy proposal, fully justified from the viewpoint of national security and ridding the state of negative influences, has come under attack from the same conglomerate of media outlets and political groupings.”

Bochenek added that “the proceedings of the state commission … will be supervised by the courts, and if the commission’s decisions are appealed against, they will require a final ruling by the administrative court to be valid.”

According to Bochenek, the new commission for investigating Russian influence in Poland “fulfils the criteria of the rule of law and will free the country from the influence of Russian agents, which remains strong in Poland, judging by the vehement reactions of certain circles” to the new law.

Probe into 'Russian influence in Poland'

Under the law signed by the Polish president, the panel investigating alleged Russian influences will probe “cases involving public officials and top public-sector executives who acted to the detriment of Poland's national interests, under Russian influence, between 2007 and 2022,” the PAP news agency reported.  

The commission has been tasked with "reviewing administrative decisions, processes behind the creation, copying and sharing of information with third parties, and the management of public funds, among other areas," according to officials. 

The panel will also investigate measures taken to influence administrative decisions and the processes behind "harmful policy decisions," they said.

The commission’s powers will include the right to cancel administrative decisions "taken as a result of Russian influences," and it will also be able to ban officials from holding positions involving the management of public funds for up to 10 years, according to reports.

The panel will consist of nine members appointed by the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, who will then elect their chairman. 

After the new law comes into force, parliamentary groups will have two weeks to submit their candidates for membership of the commission, the PAP news agency reported.

'A call for truth'

Ahead of Friday's parliamentary vote, MPs held a stormy debate during which the Civic Coalition’s Borys Budka called the draft law “a disgraceful and Bolshevik bill.”

Lawmakers with the opposition Third Way alliance, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and Paulina Hennig-Kloska, slammed the proposed panel as “a kangaroo court against the opposition” and called on the president to veto the legislation, according to the PAP news agency.

Meanwhile, conservative MP Łukasz Schreiber told the house on Friday that the commission was "not designed to target anyone" but represented "a call for truth, a call for us to respect and strengthen the constitution and sovereignty."

The governing conservatives have accused Tusk of having been too friendly toward Russia as prime minister from 2007 to 2014 and of making gas deals favourable to Moscow before he went on to become the president of the European Council, a top EU job that he held until 2019, Britain's The Independent newspaper has reported.

Monday is day 460 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PAP, dorzeczy.pl